DAYTON — The best season in Wheelersburg girls basketball history came to an end on Friday in the Division III state semifinals inside the University of Dayton Arena.

Columbus Africentric earned a 55-37 win over Wheelersburg in the first of two D-III state semifinals — advancing to their 10th state championship game in the program’s history.

The Lady Pirates finish their season 25-3 at the state tournament following their first regional championship won exactly a week prior.

‘Burg coach Dusty Spradlin, who finalizes his 21st year at the helm with a 360-129 record, spoke of the special nature his Lady Pirates have displayed over the course of their season and careers.


“21 years and I remember each group, it may take me some time to remember some of the key moments from all of them,” Spradlin said, with a smile. “They’re all special. This group certainly left their mark, they’ve been able to do something that no one else has done with Wheelersburg girls basketball. They’re a group that are very fun, and they’re their own group and will forever be remembered as the one group that got here.”

Wheelersburg senior Kiera Kennard (12) scored 10 points on five-of-seven shooting and grabbed six rebounds during the Lady Pirates meeting with Columbus Africentric in a Division III state semifinal at the University of Dayton Arena.

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

Unfortunately for the Lady Pirates, the Lady Nubians of Africentric led for the duration of Friday’s state semifinal — taking as much as a 22-point lead (45-23) with 6:37 left in the fourth quarter.

Wheelersburg shot 14-of-51 from the floor (3-of-16 from three), while Africentric shot 22-of-45 from the field (1-of-10 from three). In the first half, the Lady Pirates shot 5-of-28 from the field.

The Lady Pirates did force 20 Africentric turnovers while committing 16 of their own.

Spradlin pointed to points in the paint (40 for Africentric, 20 for Wheelersburg) and second chance points (14 for Africentric, seven for Wheelersburg) and some of the deciding factors in their 18-point loss — as well as Africentric’s relentless defensive pressure.

“Points in the paint were huge, doubled us in second chance points. Those were things that we knew could be a problem,” Spradlin said. “Their speed was something we were aware of, it’s just tough to try and simulate that in practice. Took us a while to settle in, but really proud of the effort in trying to comeback. Unfortunately just struggled shooting the ball and rebounding the ball as well.”

Africentric coach Janicia Anderson, in her second season at the helm of one of Ohio’s most successful programs, said her team followed their game plan to a tee.

“Very proud of my young ladies for taking care of business. They executed the game plan exactly how we wanted. Happy to advance to a state championship game tomorrow.”

The Lady Nubians were led in scoring by junior Natiah Nelson’s game-high 13 points on five-of-eight shooting and three-of-five free throws.

Six different Africentric players scored at least six points in their state semifinal win.

Wheelersburg was led by seniors Kiera Kennard and Makenna Walker, both of which finished with 10 points. Kennard was five-of-seven from the field and grabbed six rebounds.

Wheelersburg senior Makenna Walker (25) scored 10 points for the Lady Pirates during their meeting with Columbus Africentric in a Division III state semifinal at the University of Dayton Arena.

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

Spradlin’s Lady Pirates cut the Africentric lead to as few as 10 in the early second half after trailing 27-13 at the break.

“Super proud of how they kept fighting,” Spradlin said. “We talked about in some of the timeouts how incredibly unfair of me it was to ask them to more because they were already doing everything that they could. But they dug in and every time we asked them to do more, they were willing to step up.”

At the post game press conference, Walker and fellow senior Madison Whittaker discussed the experience of playing in the state tournament and the memories they’ll share with their teammates.

“It’s really exciting and it was an amazing experience,” Whittaker said. “Our community was great, we had everyone supporting us. It’s a little nerve-wracking playing in a big arena, we’ve never had that type of scenery before. But we went out there and gave it everything we had. It didn’t turn out like we wanted it, but I’m glad I got to share this memory with these people because I’ll remember it forever.”

Wheelersburg senior Madison Whittaker (5) drives the lane amid Africentric defenders during their meeting in a Division III state semifinal at the University of Dayton Arena.

Courtesy of Terry Stevenson,

“The memories are definitely what I’ll remember,” Walker said. “The hotel trips, going out to eat with all of my friends. The community has been so supportive in every spot, I know our parents have always put us first. They’ve given us everything, and the community coming out to support really meant a lot.”

Africentric will go for the program’s eighth state championship on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. in the D-III title game against Doylestown Chippewa. Chippewa defeated Castalia Margaretta 60-50 in the other D-III semifinal at UD Arena.



Cols. Africentric 19 8 12 16 — 55

Wheelersburg 7 6 8 16 — 37

Cols. Africentric (23-4): Ashtan Winfrey 2 2-2 6, Jeniya Bowers 4 1-2 10, Samairah Thompson 2 0-0 4, Ariel Grace 4 1-1 9, Natiah Nelson 5 3-5 13, Rayanna Howell 1 0-0 2, Shaunie Little 2 1-2 5, Taelynn Clayborn 2 2-2 6, Faith Martin 0 0-0 0, Jayona Overby 0 0-0 0, Jae’Veyonna Brown 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 22 10-14 55; Three-point field goals: 1 (Jeniya Bowers 1)

Wheelersburg (25-3): Madison Whittaker 1 2-2 5, Kiera Kennard 5 0-1 10, Makenna Walker 3 4-5 10, Lexie Rucker 3 0-0 7, Macee Eaton 1 0-0 3, Mia Vastine 0 0-0 0, Jocelyn Tilley 1 0-0 2, Annie Coriell 0 0-0 0; TOTALS: 14 6-8 37 Three-point field goals: 3 (Madison Whittaker, Lexie Rucker, Macee Eaton 1 apiece)

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved