Rachel Murray and her Waynesville High School girls basketball teammates repeatedly pinched themselves as the tournament wins mounted last season. It wasn’t a slam dunk a great regular season would extend into the postseason. And then it happened.
“Everything right now is preparing for the postseason and making another (tournament) run,” said Murray, the shooting star (21.0 points) of the unbeaten Spartans. “Last year, we surprised ourselves with how we did in the tournament. We played so well toward the end and made that run. This year, the highlight of our season would be making it to state.”
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That’s no boast. Waynesville (14-0) is on its way to repeat success. The Spartans (24-2) were knocked out of the regional final last season by eventual Division III state runner-up Versailles.
And the Spartans’ lineup is loaded. Every point Murray scores adds to her all-time career scoring total of 1,600-plus. The 5-foot-7 guard will pick between West Liberty University (W.Va.) and Embry-Riddle (Fla.) to extend her career.
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Waynesville’s inside game is powered by 5-11 senior Marcella Sizer. She’ll be the Spartans’ all-time career leader in rebounds and steals and is 52 points shy of 1,000. That all-around ability led to a scholarship to play soccer at Youngstown State. Marveled veteran Waynesville coach Tim Gabbard: “She’s just a freak of nature.”
So is “Gabby,” as the Spartans and seemingly everyone else calls him. A genuine renaissance throw-back high school entity, this is his 39th season coaching Waynesville girls basketball. His 562 career wins rank him 13th among Ohio’s all-time winningest coaches.
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He doubled as the Spartans’ head football coach for 10 seasons and later an assistant football coach at Fairmont and Monroe. That love of the games was wrapped in 29 years as Waynesville’s athletic director.
“Obviously, he knows what he’s doing because he’s been doing it for so long,” said Sizer, whose left-eye shiner – courtesy of teammate Kenzie Purkey while rebounding during a recent game – is nearly healed. “It’s nice having that support. He knows what’s up in difficult situations.”
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A Franklin grad, Gabbard, 64, found the secret to that rare coaching longevity.
“You’ve got to change with the times and a lot of coaches don’t want to change from the old philosophy of fire and brimstone to what it is now,” he said.
Waynesville has separated itself from the rest of the Southwestern Buckeye League. Two great crossover matchups remain at Valley View (12-4) and against visiting Franklin (11-3) in the final two games of the regular season.
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The Spartans are a cinch to earn a No. 1 seed in the upcoming sectional. Senior Lynzie Hartshorn leads the SWBL in assists (4.3). Sizer (13.2 points, 9.4 rebounds) is No. 1 in field goal percentage (61.2), No. 2 in steals (3.7) and No. 4 in rebounds.
All Waynesville girls and boys basketball players participate in the Waynesville Youth Basketball Association and play in the Dayton Metro Conference. There have been relatively few transfers in or out of Waynesville, Gabbard said with pride.
“I’ve just been blessed with the talent coming through,” he said. “We have an excellent youth program. That makes a big difference. We don’t get fancy. If you have the players, it’s just a matter of you staying out of the way and letting them do what they do.”
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