Girls basketball preview: Waynesville shooting for another great season

Minutes after beating host Bellbrook, a Division II state semifinalist last season, in a game-simulation scrimmage last week that Waynesville head coach Tim Gabbard called “like a tournament game,” Spartans seniors Rachel Murray and Marcella Sizer couldn’t help but revisit their last loss.

“We made it to (the D-III) regional finals last year and lost to Versailles,” Murray said. “We also lost to them in the district finals my freshman year. If we can meet up with them again that would be the highlight of my senior year.”

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Said Sizer: “It’s always in the back of our heads. Every day in practice that’s what we work for – Versailles.”

Players don’t usually seek out rematches with a state finalist. Murray and Sizer are exceptions. Any list of Waynesville girls basketball greats will include both.

A 5-foot-7 guard, Murray is the program’s all-time leading scorer (1,296 points). She set the record with a career-high 29-point performance against Carlisle midway through last season. A rare three-time Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division and District 15 Underclassmen player of the year, Murray also ranks in the top 10 in Waynesville history for assists (220) and steals (185).

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“She’s in the top five guards I’ve had and I’ve had a lot of good ones,” said Gabbard, the Spartans’ coach since 1979. “She does so many things. She can handle the ball, she’s basically automatic from the free throw line and she shoots a high-percentage from 3.”

Murray’s single-season point totals (455 as a freshman, 433 as a sophomore and 408 as a junior) occupy three of the Spartans’ top five slots all-time.

Uncommitted, she has scholarship offers from NCAA D-II schools West Liberty (W.Va.), Charleston (W.Va.), Lake Erie, Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) and Florida Tech.

“She’s a special player and everybody that plays against us knows that,” Gabbard said. “They try to box-and-1 her and they can’t, because we have a couple other pretty good players. Those players enable her to stay open and shoot.”

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Sizer commands attention in the paint.

A 6-foot forward, Sizer has led the Spartans in rebounding the last three seasons (570 total) and is on pace to become the program’s career leader. A three-time All-SWBL selection (twice first team), Sizer will also finish among the program leaders in steals (218) and is a candidate to reach 1,000-career points (763 and counting).

A three-time SWBL Buckeye Division player of the year in girls soccer, Sizer has signed with Youngstown State. The forward racked up 114 goals and 48 assists en route to being a four-time first team all-league player.

“Energy,” Murray said. “Marcella brings it. She’s dominant under the basket so it’s nice to have that inside-outside game.”

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Said Gabbard: “Marcella makes our motor run. She’s full speed all-the time. If there’s a loose ball she’s going to get it. She gets in foul trouble every once in a while, but when you have a player who hustles like that, it’s hard to slow her down.”

The Spartans’ strong senior class – including seasoned guards Lynzie Hartshorn (All-SWBL) and Kenna Harvey – and a solid underclass nucleus have produced high expectations again.

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The Spartans, 46-4 the last two seasons, are riding a 26-game home win streak and are looking for their fourth straight SWBL title. Last season Waynesville set a school record for points in a game (109), beat undefeated and No. 2 state-ranked Cincinnati Summit Country Day in the regional semifinals and finished eighth in the final Associated Press state poll. Versailles was No. 1.

“I’ve watched these girls since sixth grade,” Gabbard said. “It’s always been a special group.”

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