Monday, February 12, 2001

Girls basketball sectional tournament preview

Parity makes for uneasy favorites

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Parity often leads to surprises. That could be the scenario in the girls sectional basketball tournament that begins tonight and concludes Feb. 23.

        In past years, each of the four divisions had clear-cut favorites. Mason was the team to beat in Division I, Badin in Division II. Wyoming and Eastern Brown were on top in Division III. Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy was the Division IV power (CHCA is now in Division III).

        Not so for the 2000-2001 tournament.

[photo] Purcell Marian, led by senior Keri Fennell, comes into the tournament on a down note. The Cavaliers, top-seeded in Division II, have lost their last three games.
(Enquirer photo)
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        A loss to Harrison last week, Mason's first to a local team since a defeat to Lakota in the 1996-97 season, proved the Comets aren't invincible.

        “Harrison was focused and played with a lot of determination,” Mason coach Gerry Lackey said. “I think the loss woke us up. We had a false sense of security. We've got to make sure we're ready for every game.”

        The Division I sectional will be played at three sites: Milford, the College of Mount St. Joseph and Lakota East. Two teams from each site advance to the district tournament.

        Mason, The Enquirer's Division I coaches poll champion for the fourth consecutive season, will play at Lakota East in the same bracket with Hughes, the No. 12 seeded team.

        “We're satisfied with the draw,” Lackey said. “But we can't rely only on Michelle (Munoz) and Jere' (Issenmann) to carry us. Nicole (Stein), Rachael (Minnich) and Stacy (Shull) also must score.”

        Oak Hills, seeded No. 2 and runner-up to Mason in the final Division I poll, plays at Milford. The Highlanders start a week from Tuesday, meeting the winner of a first-round game between Mount Notre Dame and Walnut Hills.

        The Division II sectional will be played at two sites, Kings and Springboro.

        Purcell Marian, the No. 1 seed, will play in the upper sectional at Kings. The Cavaliers bring a three-game losing streak into the tournament. McNicholas is on a roll after winning the Girls Greater Cincinnati League Gray Division title.

[photo] Defending champion: Gerry Lackey and Mason cut down the nets a year ago, but a loss to Harrison last week reinforced the notion that the Comets, Enquirer poll champions, aren't invincible.
(Enquirer photo)
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        “We're playing pretty well,” McNicholas coach Rob Heise said. “I'm optimistic. We have the ability to make a nice run. If the seeds hold up, we should play either Roger Bacon or Kings in the district.”

        Although Badin went 12-8, the Rams will be tough to handle in Division II at Springboro. They are in the upper bracket with a Kings team that went 19-1.

        Springboro, The Enquirer's Division II-IV poll champion, will play at Centerville, opening with Valley View on Wednesday.

        Coach Rick Creager elected to play a first-round game rather than take a bye.

        “We didn't want not to play for 11 days,” Creager said. “If I would have taken a bye, we would have sat around until next Monday (Feb. 19).”

        On a 17-game winning streak, Springboro scrimmaged Valley View (13-7) during the preseason and “did very well,” Creager said.

        Wyoming earned the No. 1 seed in the Division III sectional at Mason but the Cowboys must get past Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, a team that defeated McNicholas in January.

        “They (CHCA) are young and not a team to be overlooked,” Wyoming coach Deb Gentile said. “But in the tournament, you can't overlook any team.

        Coming off a 69-63 loss to Lexington Catholic (No. 2 in Kentucky) on Saturday, Wyoming finished the season at 17-3 and No. 2 behind Springboro in the final poll.

        Wyoming will be tough to handle. The Cowboys fea ture a balanced scoring attack with Maria McCarthy and Jenni McGee both at 14.3 points a game. McCar thy and Laura Verhaeghe both had 160 rebounds.

        “We walked away from Lexington knowing we're ready to go,” Gentile said. “I scheduled that game to get us ready.”

        Schedules: Division I | II | III | IV

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