Girls Basketball: Alter gears up for unbeaten encore

Area teams swept three of the four girls high school basketball state championships last season. Alter (30-0) capped an incredible two-season run by winning the Division II title. Versailles (26-4) reasserted itself as a D-III power as did Fort Loramie (26-4) in D-IV.

All three defending state champs were hard hit by graduation losses and will carry well-earned big targets this season.

“Last year was something you don’t even dream about,” said Alter co-head coach Chris Hart, in her 22nd season with the Knights and who shares coaching duties with Kendal Peck (18 seasons). “To have been a part of it, honestly, was a privilege.”

The girls basketball season opens today throughout the area. The boys are one week behind and begin their regular season Nov. 27.

Alter suffered its only loss of the 2013-14 season in the D-II state final. That set the stage for last season’s determined drive, which ended with a 57-42 defeat to Toledo Rogers in the state final. The Knights are 59-1 over the last two seasons, but gone are four-year starters Maddie Bazelak and Emma Bockrath, both of whom surpassed 1,000 career points.

But there’s plenty for the Knights to build around. That begins with junior guard Braxtin Miller (10.0 points, 3.4 rebounds), a 6-footer who drew recruiting attention even before she enrolled at Alter. Senior Libby Bazelak (7.1, 5.1), Maddie’s sister, was a lock-down defender. Senior Hayley Combs (7.7, 3.8) is a 6-1 force in the middle.

Alter graduated just four seniors off that title team – including Jocelyn Meyer and Lauren Ashurst — and went deep into its roster during most games.

“As one coach told me earlier this fall, ‘People would die to have what you have coming back,’ “ Hart said. “We sure did lose a lot. You don’t lose 2,000 points and not feel it. All four of those kids meant so much to the program and especially the run we’ve had the last two (seasons). It’ll take us some time to develop who we are now. We have different pieces. Once we figure that out, we’ll be OK.”

Alter opens the season at Cincinnati Mother of Mercy at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Just as last season, D-II is loaded with quality teams, especially in the Central Buckeye Conference. Tippecanoe (27-1) lost only to Alter in the regional final and returns 5-10 senior Carly Clodfelter (15.5 points) who signed with Wright State University last week. Kenton Ridge (22-5) has a high-scoring returning combo in senior Sydney Bates (19.5) and junior Jamari McDavid (18.9).

D-I: This was the only division not to be represented at state last season, but Fairmont (19-8) did its best. The Firebirds used a late-season surge to upset Springboro (23-2) and Mason before falling in a regional semifinal. If that sounds familiar it should; Fairmont played in four straight final fours from 2010-13 and won the 2013 D-I state title.

Springboro 5-10 senior Kelly Wurth (19.0) was the Panthers’ go-to player last season. Tecumseh (18-7) is another CBC squad that’s loaded with proven scoring tandem in seniors Lindsey Nartker (21.8) and Danielle Franklin (19.2). Sidney (22-2) should also be a force with seniors Sylvia Hudson (18.8) and 6-3 junior Celena Taborn (16.8).

Centerville (22-4) won’t have 6-6 grad Shannon Coffee (20.5, 10.8) in the middle. A four-year starter, she’s a freshman playing at Stanford. The Elks will gear their offense around 5-10 junior Victoria Harrison (10.0).

D-III: Versailles used a senior-laden lineup to win its second state title by beating Ottawa-Glandorf 49-46 in the state final. That was the Tigers’ fifth final four appearance since 2007. Sophomore Kami McEldowney is a returning starter for coach Jacki Stonebraker’s Tigers.

West Liberty-Salem (19-5) has one of the state’s tallest players in 6-4 senior Jamie Peterson (15.4). Arcanum (11-13) should rally around top returning scorers Alexis Abner (15.3) and Stevie Johnting (15.5).

D-IV: Fort Loramie earned its second state title in three seasons by beating Waterford 55-48 in the championship. “This one is a very awesome win,” Redskins coach Carla Siegel said afterward. “To be here when nobody expected us to be here except ourselves is great.”

A couple of returning seniors played big roles in that title game. Jessica Boerger (15.0) was good for a game-high 25 points and Holly Frey added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

This division is loaded with returning high scorers, including Fairlawn junior Audrey Francis (20.7) and Cedarville sophomore Isabelle Bolender (20.0). Miami Valley junior Tia Karras (17.6) also is a proven threat.

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