COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeye State is down to 16 girls teams … and southeastern Ohio can claim a pair of them.
Ironton (27-0) and Waterford (26-1) are the last two regional teams standing headed into the this weekend’s OHSAA girls basketball state championships being held at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University.
The Lady Tigers — the only unbeaten of the 16 qualifiers — will face Columbus Africentric (22-5) in the 3 p.m. contest Thursday in the second of two Division III semifinal games. Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (23-5) and Marion Pleasant (26-2) play in the first D-3 contest at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Ironton — behind D-3 co-player of the year Lexie Barrier and her 18.1 points per game — will be making the program’s fourth state tournament appearance after previous trips in 1980, 2005 and 2010. The Lady Nubians will be appearing in their fourth straight Final Four and seventh state appearance overall.
IHS also allows both Lawrence County and the Ohio Valley Conference to make a third consecutive appearance at the D-3 tournament as Fairland qualified the previous two postseasons.
The second set of games on Thursday are in Division II, as Columbus Eastmoor Academy (22-4) faces Kettering Archbishop Alter (26-2) in the 6 p.m. semifinal. Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (17-10) and Ottawa-Glandorf (25-2) face off in the second D-3 semifinal at 8 p.m.
Waterford will be making its second straight Final Four appearance at the Division IV tournament and faces Willoughby Cornerstone Christian (23-4) in the 1 p.m. opener Friday. Fostoria Saint Wendelin (25-3) and Jackson Center (21-7) meet in the second D-4 semifinal at 3 p.m.
The Lady Wildcats allowed the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division to have a fourth consecutive postseason with one team in the Final Four, joining Reedsville Eastern’s back-to-back trips in 2013 and 2014. EHS is still the only D-4 program in southeastern Ohio to win a Division IV girls championship, doing so in 2014.
The Division I semifinals start at 6 p.m. Friday when Wadsworth (26-1) and Reynoldsburg (23-5) face off, then Mason (25-2) and Solon (19-8) battle in the other D-1 semifinal.
All four championship games will be played Saturday, starting with the Division III final at 10:45 a.m. The D-2 final begins at 2 p.m., followed by the D-4 and D-1 championships at 5:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. respectively.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.