Alter leaves legacy at state tournament, state tournament thoughts
By Jim Dabbelt
It’s amazing what a difference a day makes.
Alter is taken to overtime by Ottawa Glandorf before dominating Hathaway Brown in the Division 2 state finals. Berlin Hiland needs a three-pointer at the buzzer to advance to the Division 4 state finals, and then dominate the defending state champion Waterford in the finals.
Even in Cincinnati in Division One, by a lot of people, Mount Notre Dame was considered the “third wheel” down in the Queen City when the season began, with Lakota West and Mason expected to battle for a trip to state. When the chips were down, MND cashed in for another state title.
Yes it was truly a memorable weekend that concluded in Columbus at the state championships. Some of my thoughts on the two local teams who were there:
* The Alter Knights were the talk of the state tournament, with their record the last four years being 115-5, meaning the senior class produced the best record of any class in Ohio history, boys or girls. A team would have to average nearly 29 wins a year for 4 years to duplicate or break that record. That probably won’t happen for a while, but it was quite a mark for the Knights.
But what makes that even more impressive is their strength of schedule. They beat 30 teams along the way with 20+ wins in that specific season, and didn’t back down from anyone. Their closest game in the tournament going into the Final Four was a nine-point win over Tippecanoe. Every other game was never in doubt. It was a historic run for the Knights. Six seniors put them at the top of the mountain in the Miami Valley and solidifies them as the Team of the Decade in the Dayton area. Three straight state championship which followed a runner-up, meaning these six seniors have ended every season in Columbus. Quite a run for this legendary program.
Speaking of the seniors, Libby Bazelak and Braxtin Miller quickly became household names in the basketball circles. Bazelak is the steady, smooth leader who was always under control. She could score from anywhere and was the quarterback of the team. Miller was the show-stopper. She could score at nearly anytime, elevated over everyone for the midrange shot, could hit the three, and along with Bazelak made up the best backcourt in the state.
Oh and for the record with all of the all-Ohio awards given out, for my money, the best player in Ohio played in the backcourt for the Alter Knights. Take your choice…..
*When the season began, I told a college coach from this area that Versailles was winning the state title, and that nearly came true. They don’t always have the big scorers, in fact they rarely do. What makes them do talented is the fact they play so well together, and everyone knows their role to make this team successful. Kami McEldowney is a very underrated point guard, who although didn’t shoot the ball extremely well in the finals, did what she was supposed to do. She dished out four assists and only had one turnover in 32 minutes. The team is deep, and they are only losing one starter. Senior starter Camille Watren had six threes in two days, and her leadership will be missed. After the new enrollment figures come out and everyone is placed in their respective divisions for 2017-18, they will be ready to make the trip back to Columbus.
Jacki Stonebraker is one coach who I feel has her team prepared probably better than anyone. Reminds me of Jack Billing at Anna during their state title run. That team knew exactly where everyone was going to be at all times. Gilmour was the more talented basketball team, and when Naz Hillman got position inside, the Tigers could not defend her. But Versailles battled back after being down seven points late to take the game to the final possession and nearly get the win.
* The crowds at the state tournament were really down this year. Division 1: 3,115 Division 3: 3,270, Division 4: 4,759. The Division 2 attendance was not listed, but it had to be under 3,000. Not surprised at all that D4 was the breadwinner, as the small school communities have always shown the most support for their teams at the state level. There were also only a couple of student sections that I thought were really big, and again that is disappointing. But that goes back to the private school/public school debate. While people like to argue that one way or another, a lot of times the private schools just don’t bring the same crowd.
* Huge kudos go out to the OHSAA for putting on a first-class event. I am honored to do both their state tournament Preview on the OHSAA Radio Network, and their state preview for the official program. I have developed great friendships with the likes of Jerry Snodgrass, Tim Stried, and two of Ohio’s greatest players ever who are now involved with the OHSAA, Lauren Prochaska and Kristin (Daugherty) Ronai. Nobody does it better, and Good Lord willing, I look forward to the state tournament in 2018.
It was also great seeing the media who cover the sport. I think the coverage in the sport has grown, from back in the day when I started in 1986 where nobody but me cared about promoting the sport, now to all the great media who was at the state tournament. The radio coverage is tremendous and the finals are on TV. I also believe all of the games on all three days are streamed now.
The game is not played above the rim like it in on the boys’ side, but I have always said, girls’ basketball is much more fundamentally sound. If you watched a team like Hiland, they are so well structured and it is truly a system up there. It is the type of program that everyone wants to be like.
*Now, after hosting the state’s top Underclass All-Star game this week, the Day of Champions with Jim Clayton next weekend, and a trip to cover a huge AAU event in Pittsburgh, I look forward to my annual month hiatus from basketball. I will be taking April 3-May 1 completely off, with the slight exception of attending the OGBR Spring Special for a few hours on April 23. It is a chance to rejuvenate the battery and get ready for a busy AAU/Travel Ball season.
Congratulations to all of the players in Ohio for a fun season, it is truly a pleasure being able to promote you and your game.
Minster senior has big game, bigger heart
By Jim Dabbelt 12/30/16
But what the Minster High School senior has done off the court has shown her true character. While her overall game and solid defense helps the Wildcats win basketball games, her generosity off the court has helped a lot of kids win at life.
Westerbeck recently completed a longtime project created knows as the Red Wagon Campaign, where she collected several wagons full of toys that she distributed to Dayton Children’s Medical Center, one of two trips she will make this winter to see the kids.
“I was in the hospital in first grade, and I remember the wonderful treatment and care that the Dayton Children’s Hospital provided for me,” Westerbeck said. “The doctors, nurses and staff all supported me physically and emotionally. They took care of my family as well. I can clearly remember the day that Child Life came around and passed out blankets. As a child, the hospital is a really scary thing, and receiving that blanket created an atmosphere of comfort and ‘home’ for me.”
Her time at Children’s as a youngster has stuck with Westerbeck, and she put all of her efforts into giving back to the kids who have to spend time at the facility. Her first trip was right before Christmas and she is ready to give more.
“I had this strong feeling that I needed to give back to the ones that saved my life, and continue to help kids everyday. So, I brainstormed some ideas and names for my project, and eventually came up with the Red Wagon Campaign™… I currently have the named reserved for official trademark,” Westerbeck said. “I launched my first campaign in 2013, successfully filling 4 wagons overflowing with toys and activities for the patients.”
“Now a senior, I was challenged to do the campaign again, and this time 13 wagons were generously donated by members of my community. I was able to fill an entire trailer full of wagons and toys for the kids and I am making another trip this month, hopefully filling another trailer full.”
While her successful gesture has grown since it begun, she can remember how tough it was to start any idea.
“The beginning part of the project is always the toughest, getting the first few wagons donated,” she said. “Once people see that other members of the community are getting involved, everyone jumps on board. Many donors quickly approached me to purchase wagons.”
“Now comes the easy part, I simply display the wagons at a few locations around town, and let people place their donation in the wagons. Minster is such a gracious and loving community. This area was the perfect location to do this project through the help of the Youth Leadership Association (YLA) and the entire Minster community.”
“I can’t quite find the right words to express the feeling you get when you give a sick child a gift for Christmas. It’s something so special that can only be explained by experiencing the giving first hand.”
Westerbeck’s giving back goes way beyond this single endeavor. In fact, one has to wonder how she finds the time to help out everyone she does.
“Well, the simple answer is, if something matters to you, you’ll make time for it,” the Wildcats star said. “I care very much about my community and giving back to the ones that make living in this area so wonderful. So in order to balancing volunteering, basketball, and school, I have learned to value time management a lot.”
“To make sure I have time to volunteer, I make sure I get my school work done a head of the due dates. Getting my work done ahead of time gives me the opportunity to spend my Saturday afternoons playing BINGO at the local assisted living center. In the midst of school and volunteering, I find myself in the gym playing basketball. Whether it is a scheduled practice, or just shooting around on my own time, I always make sure to find time to get in the gym.”
“Above all else, I make time for church activities. My faith is something that I am grounded in. My entire being stems from my love of Christ. and I thank Him for giving me the opportunity to play basketball, and give back to the community through volunteering.”
Her basketball Wildcats are off to a great start to the season, undefeated at the New Years break. She knows that there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle to make this team so successful.
“The program doesn’t just consist of the freshman-senior players, we have the junior high and elementary school players, the fans and other students, who are all members of this unit,” she said. “The key to our success is realizing and valuing others skills and abilities. Every single person on the team has a vital role in helping us achieve our goals. Their support helps drive us to our goals.”
Westerbeck is no stranger to success and honors. In 2014, she was crowned as the Ohio Miss Outstanding Teen, and it opened a lot of doors for the area student athlete.
“It was absolutely the best year of my life,” Westerbeck said, who had the chance to travel the entire state of Ohio and many other eastern states.
“I also had the opportunity to travel to Mansfield England (UK). As I traveled, I met tons of people with riveting and insightful stories and backgrounds. I love to learn about new places and things, so having the opportunity to meet so many different people and see different things has really brought me full circle.”
Westerbeck advocated for and promoted scholastic achievement, creative accomplishment, healthy living and community involvement for America’s teens.
“I am forever grateful for the many experiences I got during my reign, and will continue to empower young woman to get involved in the system. This program is incredibly rewarding, and embodies the development of young women into becoming powerful women.”
Westerbeck has shown everything one thing. Basketball is something that will last for a short time in her life. Her huge heart and compassion for people will help carry her through her entire life.