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Waterford’s Jerry Close named D4 Coach of the Year; Fort’s Hannah Archer lands on 2nd team

Photo by Joe Albright Fort Frye’s Hannah Archer, left, makes a move with the ball during a high school girls basketball game against Steubenville this season in Beverly.

Jerry Close has had a lot of success as the Waterford girls head basketball coach, including a state championship in 2016.

Arguably some of Close’s best work as a coach came this winter, guiding a young Wildcats team, which was 12-6 midway through the season, on a run to the Final Four.

Monday, Close was named the Division IV Coach of the Year by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association. The Wildcats finished 20-7 after falling to McDonald in the state semifinals in Dayton. They shared the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division title with Trimble. Their postseason run was surprising to a lot of people, but not Close.

“Nobody expected us to be here,” Close said after Waterford defeated Newark Catholic in the regional semifinal. “There’s been a lot of talk about, we didn’t deserve to be here and we upset Notre Dame. I don’t really think it was an upset, so I’m just happy for the kids.”

Following a regional final victory over Peebles, the team that eliminated Waterford the previous two seasons, Close said “I’ve never had a team improve as much from the beginning of the season to the end of the season as this group has and I’ve told them that a million times. What a great, gutty effort by these kids.”

Waterford junior Cara Taylor was named third team All-Ohio in Division IV. Taylor, also a volleyball and softball standout, averaged 14.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 2.4 assists this season while shooting 46.7% from the floor.

“Cara never surprises you,” Close said after Taylor scored 27 points in a district semi win over South Webster. “You just expect something out of Cara every night.”

Taylor’s classmate, Mackenzie Suprano, was named honorable mention All-Ohio after averaging 15.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per game this season.

In Division III, Fort Frye junior Hannah Archer earned second team All-Ohio status. Archer helped lead the Dan Liedtke-coached Cadets to the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual state champion Hiland.

She led the team with 17.4 points per game and shot 87% from the free throw line and 44.5% from the floor. She also surpassed 1,000-point mark for her career this season.

“She’s earned every bit of it,” Liedtke said after Archer scored her 1,000th point. “She has shot a lot of basketball out of season to be able to accomplish the things that she has.”

Fellow Fort Frye junior Kenzie Dalton was named special mention All-Ohio. Dalton averaged 10.4 points, 5.2 assists, 4.7 steals and 4.6 boards per game and shot 53.1% from the floor.

Warren’s Abbie Smith repeated as a third team All-Ohio honoree in D2. Smith averaged a double-double this season, posting 16.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. She shot an incredible 65% (112 for 172) from the floor, one of the top marks in the state. The Warriors fell to Sheridan in the district finals.

After watching Smith tally 19 points and nine rebounds in a district semi win over Fairfield Union, Warren head coach Amy Way said “Abbie does such a great job. She knows she’s going to be doubled and she finds those open girls for the wide open shots.”

Elsewhere in Washington County, Marietta’s Morgan Altenburger was honorable mention All-Ohio in Division I after averaging 16.2 points per game this season. In D4, Frontier’s Kara Ramsey (10 points per game) and Belpre’s Curstin Giffin (14 ppg) were honorable mention as well.

Shenandoah’s Ashleigh Wheeler earned second team All-Ohio honors in Division IV after scoring 12.1 points per game this season. Fellow Zep Mya Leach was honorable mention.

Earning third team All-Ohio honors was Caldwell senior Cayton Secrest. She scored 16.3 points per game this season.

Federal Hocking’s Paige Tolson (23 ppg) was special mention in D3 while Monroe Central’s Kalista Friday (18.5 ppg) was special mention in D4.

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