The girls state final fours begin Thursday and conclude with Saturday’s four state championships, all at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Gabbard’s return wish will be fulfilled when unbeaten Waynesville (26-0) plays Doylestown Chippewa (25-1) in a D-III state semifinal at 3 p.m. Thursday. Prior to that, defending D-III state champ Columbus Africentric (26-0) is matched against Berlin Hiland (26-2) in the other D-III semi.
»» GIRLS TOURNEY: Three area teams shoot for state titles
»» RELATED: Girls, boys tourney pairings, results
Carroll (25-2) is paired against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (18-9) in a D-II state semi at 6 p.m. Thursday. Like Waynesville, Carroll will be making its second appearance in the final four after placing runner-up in D-II in 2011.
A third area team and defending D-IV state champ Minster (26-1) will play Willoughby Cornerstone Christian (23-4) in Friday’s 1 p.m. D-IV state semifinal opener.
Waynesville has been on a final four mission ever since losing to Versailles in a regional final last season. Waynesville eliminated Versailles in the regional semifinals and then Cincinnati Purcell Marian in the regional final. In both games Waynesville mounted a sizable halftime lead, trailed late, then rallied to win.
“Their goal was to come back, beat Versailles and make it to state and they’ve fulfilled that goal,” Gabbard said. “They just play well as a team. There are no individuals. It’s all about the team. It’s been like that all year.”
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On Tuesday, Gabbard was named the D-III state coach of the year. Spartans seniors Rachel Murray was first team All-Ohio and Marcella Sizer second team. Murray is unsigned and Sizer has signed to play soccer at Youngstown State.
• All four state champs from last season are back looking for repeats: Pickerington Central (D-I), Toledo Rogers (D-II), Africentric (D-III) and Minster (D-IV).
• The Ohio Ms. Basketball will be announced by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association on Thursday.
• The D-II and D-III state semifinals are Thursday and D-I and D-IV on Friday. All four of Saturday’s state title games will be carried live on Spectrum News 1 (Channel 1).
»» RELATED: Girls, boys hoop results/pairings
»» GIRLS HOOP: Centerville rolls into D-I regional final
• Live game stats are available online at ohsaa.org. Live online video of all games is free to Spectrum subscribers and available for $9.99 per game, also at ohsaa.org.
• The boys regionals are this week, followed by their state final fours next week also at the Schott.
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»» GIRLS HOOP: Final state polls