Three Waite players, 6-foot-3 senior forward Natasha Howard, 6-2 junior post Shanice McNeal, and 5-8 senior guard Mariah Haynes are three of five selections on the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press First Team.
Howard is Player of the Year and Waite coach Manny May Coach of the Year.
Who would have guessed?
Howard was chosen by the Associated Press as Ms. Ohio Basketball, is a Parade All-American, and is playing in the McDonalds All-American Game this week, May is Ohio’s Division I Coach of the Year, and both led the Indians to a D-I runner-up finish at Ohio State’s Value City Arena last weekend.
Howard averaged 24.5 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 steals, and three blocked shots per game. McNeal averaged 13.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and two blocked shots, and Haynes averaged 11.2 points, seven rebounds, and three steals.
The Press almost considered putting Howard’s name by proxy when sending ballots to 10 area coaches and 10 local media representatives. It would have worked, too, because Howard was nearly every voter’s choice for POY. Lake senior 5-9 senior guard Kaysie Brittenham got POY votes, too.
While Howard is heading on a full scholarship to Florida State, May says McNeal likes Xavier and Dayton after her senior year but has not yet made a decision. May expects Haynes and senior guard Courtney Jackson to be announcing in the next month where they will be playing NCAA D-I basketball next year.
However, for coach of the year, it could have been different. While May was the clear winner, who can forget the season the Lake girls had behind Coach Denny Meyer?
The Flyers, by comparison, could have easily made the trip to Columbus in Division III. After finishing its second straight 20-0 regular season,
"It means a lot," said Lake 5-7 junior guard Megan Abbey, a Second Team All-Press selection, "and it shows everyone that last year wasn't a fluke. We work hard all the time. We put in the time and effort to go 20-0. Everyone knew we were good from last year and everyone came at us really hard.”
Lake gave eventual state champion Liberty Benton (28-0) the second closest game the Eagles had during tournament play. Even better — L-B put up only 39 points against the Flyers, which was the best defensive output all season against the Eagles.
L-B had been scoring 70, 80, 90 points against many regular season opponents, defeated Lakota 86-18 to begin sectional play, and then routed Toledo Area Athletic Conference champion Ottawa Hills 60-38 in the district semi-final before facing Lake. L-B even won state final four games easily, defeating Smithville (25-2) 56-34 and Middletown Madison (27-1) 66-44.
Enough about L-B. However, it demonstrates where the Flyers could be if they had gotten past L-B. In addition, the past two seasons when the Flyers and Eagles met in district tournament play, Lake was undefeated and L-B was a state final four qualifier.
Let’s not forget that Meyer duplicated the performance of his mentor — Oak Harbor coach Dick Heller. Heller also had successive 20-0 regular seasons, but could not reach the state final four. Meyer was an assistant under Heller before leaving for Lake.
As a result, Meyer received his share of votes for COY, but not enough to topple May. One voter suggested providing both coaches with COY plaques no matter how the voting resulted, and if Alan Miller Jewelers is good with that, so is The Press.
The Flyers were led by Brittenham, also a selection on the All-Press First Team and Suburban Lakes League POY. The three “not-so-little” Indians and Brittenham are joined by Clay 5-7 senior forward Megan Agoston.
Brittenham led Lake in every scoring category — averaging 15.8 points, shooting 51 percent from two-point territory, 42 percent on 3-point attempts, and made 77 percent of her free throws. She was second on the team in rebounding (4.8) and led the team in steals (3.5).
Agoston was Second Team All-City, Honorable Mention District 7, and All-Academic in the CL and District. She averaged 12.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 steals, shot 41.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc (19-of-46), 45.6 percent from two-point territory (73-of-160), and made 77 percent (64-of-83) of her free throws.