In 1927, the Toledo Waite boys’ basketball team was state runner-up, and Waite boys’ teams also qualified for the state tournament in 1924, 1925, 1931, and 1940.
Waite football was nationally prominent from the time of the school’s opening in 1914 to the early 1960s under legendary coaches Jack Mollenkopf and Don McAllister.
Last weekend, the Waite girls’ basketball team put the nearly 100-year-old historic east side school back on Ohio’s map by becoming Division I state runner-up.
Tuesday, the Waite student body held a rally in Grant Murray Field House to honor the team. It was complete with a city proclamation presented by Councilman Mike Craig, a 1973 Waite graduate.
“Sitting here is a group of young ladies who have represented Waite High School very well since the beginning of the last school year,” said Principal Dave Yenrick, also an alumnus.“Even though we’d like to resolve it be different (state champion), we are still very proud of these young ladies.”
After Waite’s 61-55 semi-final victory over Kettering Fairmont, a contingent of Waite students was in the hallways of Value City Arena huddled together, screaming and celebrating.
“They are very ecstatic and happy. I mean, you’ve brought pride to the east side. You’ve brought some hope to a place that has gone down and things, so you bring some hope so it can still be alive again,” Coach May said.
“There are some things going on the east side where most people thought it was dead. I think that’s the key point there. We’re proud to bring this back to the people on the east side, and it means a lot to them,” May continued.
“It shows you can produce something out of Waite High School. You can produce something out of the east side that is valuable and appreciative. They are very, very appreciative of what the kids have done and respect what they’ve done for the east side, and likewise what they’ve done for us. That’s been very good for us.”
Junior guard Brooke Hunt said,“It feels so good that we represented Waite, the east side, off our talent, off our hard work. Coach May believed in us and we went all the way to Columbus and represented Toledo.”
In the championship, Canton McKinley defeated Waite 49-47. But that didn’t change the way the girls represented East Toledo.
Junior post Shanice McNeal said,“It was a great experience because we’ve never made it that far. I’m a junior, so it was a good experience. I had fun. We were just happy we made it that far and made it as state runner-up.”
Senior Mariah Haynes said,“It was a great experience for us. We did our best. We didn’t come out with what we really expected — of course, we expected to win. We truly did win in our hearts because we played as a team and we came back as a team after we fell behind. I don’t have any regrets. I’m so happy and pleased. I really don’t want this to end.
“It feels good to know that we’re doing something that hasn’t been done for a good while and that we were the chosen ones just to be able to do it. I’m happy for us,” Haynes said.
May said the four-day experience in Columbus was good for his program. The team left on Thursday morning, played in the third semi-final Friday and final championship game Saturday, and then returned home Sunday.
“In retrospect looking back at it, it was a great experience for us to accomplish what we accomplished and to go to Columbus, and to hang out as a team in the climax of the season,” May said. “It was good for our five seniors, three juniors, and for our sophomores to have the fun and camaraderie and to just hang out together one last time in that kind of setting. I think that climaxed the whole season for them seniors.”
His players said it was a reward for their hard work dating back to last summer.
“It was phenomenal. It was like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never forget it. I had so much fun with my coaches and teammates. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Hunt said.
Playing in Ohio State’s arena did shake up some players, but not others. The girls played in front of 3,902 fans during the Sports Time Ohio-televised state final.
“In the beginning, you think, ‘Oh, my God,’ I’m playing in this huge arena, but after a while you just get used to the environment and play basketball,” Hunt said.
Senior forward Natasha Howard, who will playing on a big stage next year at Florida State, said, “We’ve played in front of the big stage before, like against Start. We’ve been through it in the summer in Kentucky and Tennessee, and we know how the big stage is so we weren’t really worried about it.”