In their second trip to a Division I girls basketball regional, the sixth-ranked Waite Indians (21-2) will be battling a team with a top-notch individual star and some extra emotional incentive on their side for tonight's 6:15 semifinal at Norwalk.
Where Waite has All-American and top Ohio Ms. Basketball candidate Natasha Howard as its marquee player, the unranked Saints (16-8) rely heavily on a future Bowling Green Falcon in 6-0 senior forward Shanique Ogle, who has averaged 18.3 points and 12.6 rebounds this season.
Ogle put up a near triple double (26 points, 16 rebounds, nine steals) in Southview's 52-43 upset of top district seed Westlake (17-5) in the district semifinals, then pushed her career scoring total to 1,004 with 15 points in the Saints' 32-25 district final win over Lodi Cloverleaf.
Adding incentive for coach Scott Plzak's Saints is the fact that this will be their last season of sports. Southview is slotted to close after this school year.
The Cinderella Saints also have had fate on their side. They played their district semi when Westlake was missing its star player, All-Ohio candidate Kalpana Beach, who was out with a medical emergency.
“The keys for us are to eliminate turnovers, box out very well, and cover their shooters,” Waite coach Manny May said of Southview. “Ogle's dominant area is from the foul line to the [low] post, and we need to keep somebody on her and make everybody else try to beat us.
“Ogle reminds me a little of [former Central Catholic star] Brianna Jones, the way she plays in the post area and on the block.”
In Southview's only other trip to a regional, the Saints were hammered 93-67 in the 2003 semifinals by Mansfield Senior.
Waite, the City League champion, also lost in its prior regional semifinal appearance, falling 61-53 to seventh-ranked Amherst Steele in 2006 at Norwalk.
To advance this time, the Indians needed to complete a three-game season sweep of 2009 D-I state runner-up Start, which had swept Waite last season.
After beating the Spartans 66-46 in league play, the Indians edged them 44-43 in the City championship game, and then took a 54-42 win over Start in Saturday's district final at Perrysburg.
On the season, Howard — the highly-regarded 6-3 senior who has scored 1,643 career points — is averaging 23.7 points and 11.1 rebounds to lead the Indians. Shanice McNeal, a 6-2 junior forward, has contributed 12.9 points and 9.1 rebounds, and 5-9 senior guard Miriah Haynes has added 10.9 points per game. Haynes led Waite with 20 points in Saturday's district final.
Rounding out the Indians' starting five are 5-7 senior guard Courtney Jackson and 5-5 junior guard Brooke Hunt. Senior guard Fantasia Combs is typically the team's top sub.
If the Indians win, they will meet the winner of the 8 p.m. semifinal between Perrysburg and Brecksville-Broadview Heights in Saturday's 1 p.m. regional final at Norwalk.
Contact Steve Junga at:email@example.com or 419-724-6461.