There’s hardly been a season in the last decade when a girls basketball team from Shelby County or the immediate surrounding area hasn’t earned a state berth.
Any squad that does the next three years will have a much shorter drive.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced on Tuesday girls basketball state semifinals and finals will be played at University of Dayton Arena from 2021-2023. The state tournament has been held at locations on Ohio State’s campus for all but one season since it began in 1976.
“We are very excited to sign a three-year agreement for our member schools to experience UD Arena,” OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said in a press release. “Southwest Ohio loves and supports basketball and the people at the University of Dayton have made it clear that they really want this state tournament on their campus. We believe that we have found a great home for the girls basketball state tournament.”
The girls state tournament has been played in Columbus every year but 1986, when it was played at the University of Akron. Semifinals and finals were played at Ohio State’s St. John Arena from 1976 to 1999 and were moved to the Jerome Schottenstein Center in 2000 after that facility opened. The tournament was played at St. John Arena in 2005 due to a scheduling conflict at the Schottenstein Center.
Girls state finals were also moved back to St. John Arena this year due to a scheduling conflict with the state wrestling tournament, which was scheduled to be held the same weekend at the Schottenstein Center.
But on the day the girls state tournament was scheduled to start, the OHSAA indefinitely postponed the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The association later canceled the remainder of the tournament and all other winter sports tournaments.
Like most sports, the girls basketball tournaments have had declining attendance in the last decade. The tournament drew 36,298 fans in 2019, down over 7,000 people from the 43,530 that attended the tournament in 2009. The tournament’s best attendance all came in the 90’s when it surpassed 60,000 spectators four times, including in 1997 when a record 63,060 fans packed into St. John Arena.
Due to low attendance, the Schottenstein Center has closed off its upper deck in recent years during the tournament. The arena seats 18,809 people.
The OHSAA cited lack of availability at Ohio State as a factor for the move. Aside from the wrestling tournament, the university has also held NCAA tournament events and concerts at its arenas in March in recent years around the time of the state tournament.
A three-year renovation project was completed at UD Arena in late 2019. The arena, which has hosted the NCAA First Four since the event began in 2011, has a seating capacity of 13,450.
“We’re very proud that the OHSAA has entrusted us to host the girls basketball state tournament at the University of Dayton Arena for the next three years,” Dayton associate athletic director Scott DeBolt said.
“The same ingredients that make UD Arena the ideal place for the NCAA First Four — community support and excitement for the game of basketball, our facilities, staff and tournament hosting experience — will help create lifelong memories for the young women who come to Dayton to play in the state tournament and their school communities.”
Fort Loramie, Minster and Anna’s girls basketball teams all earned state berths this year and were slated to play at St. John Arena. They’re far from the only squads that have taken a court at Ohio State in recent years.
Fort Loramie has earned 10 state berths while Versailles has earned nine berths. Anna and Minster have each earned six berths and Jackson Center has earned four berths.
The squads’ best state tournament runs have mostly come since the move to the Schottenstein Center. Minster won Division IV titles in 2019, 2018, 2004 and 1998 while Fort Loramie won D-IV titles in 2013 and 2015. Fort Loramie was joined in Columbus in 2013 when Anna won the D-III title and in 2015 when Versailles won the D-III title.
Anna also won the Class A title in 1981 and the D-III title in 2011. Versailles also won the D-III title in 2008. Jackson Center won D-IV titles in 2001 and 1995.
The 2021 girls tournament is scheduled to be held March 11-13. The 2021 boys state tournament will be held March 18-20 at St. John Arena. The OHSAA does not have a host for the boys tournament lined up after 2021.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.