Tri-Village girls basketball wins 2023-24 WOAC Championship

Patriots win WOAC League Title in 2024 going 11-0 in conference play. (Dale Barger photo)

NEW MADISON – The Tri-Village Varsity Girls Basketball Program completed league play undefeated going 11-0 in the Western Ohio Athletic Conference during the 2023-24 season.  Since the inception of the WOAC three years ago, Tri-Village has gone undefeated in league play completing a three-peat winning their 3rd WOAC Championship.

Tri-Village girls basketball coach Brad Gray has won a lot of league titles, 10 to be exact but this one might be one of the sweeter titles considering the Patriots went 30-0 last year winning a state championship and graduating three seniors who provided 48 points of offense.

“We are a much different team than we were a year ago, so we are going to celebrate this championship because a lot of people outside of our group thought we weren’t going to be able to do it this year.  This was a very young and inexperienced group and we’ve also only had our full roster available to us for two games up to this point this year,” Gray stated.

“Bella Black was our most experienced returner from last year and has missed the past three weeks to injury, so this one hasn’t been easy at all. These kids have a lot of interior motivation but some of the exterior motivation that we received has been helpful as well. I’m extremely proud of these kids for being able to add to the tradition, especially because of how balanced and tough our league was this year with teams like Mississinawa Valley, Arcanum, and Dixie just to name a few,” beamed Gray.

Tri-Village Coach Brad Gray picked up his 3rd straight WOAC League Title in 2023-24. (Dale Barger photo)

You often hear of dynasties like the New England Patriots, UCLA Bruins, Boston Celtics, New York Yankees, teams who have sustained success for multiple years and that’s exactly what the Lady Patriots program has achieved.

Tri-Village has won an incredible 74 league games in a row, you have to go back to January 11, 2018, for the last league loss to Miami East, and since 2010-11 the Patriots have gone 165-5 in league play.

Coming into the 2023-24 season many believed Mississinawa Valley had the edge for a league title and rightfully so after they won 20 games last season while also returning everyone from the previous year.

And there were questions about Tri-Village coming into the season having to replace 47.4 points per game from Rylee Sagester, Morgan Hunt, and Torie Richard with the PATS only returning two seniors Bella Black and Kiersten Wilcox.  Bella Black and sophomore Sydnee DeLong were the only returning starters along with sophomore Kynnedi Hager contributing to the 2022-23, 30-0 state championship team.

The departing three seniors were not just known for their ability to put the ball in the hole.  Morgan Hunt provided tremendous length and deflected numerous passes and rebounded the ball very well, Torie Richards set the steals record and defended the other team’s best players and they along with Rylee Sagester used their athleticism to set the tone with their defense as well.

So, the questions entering the 2023-24 season were obvious…could the returning players and newcomers to the program replace the lost offense and provide the defensive intensity the Lady Patriots program would need to be competitive?

Tri-Village would be tested early in the season in conference play, with many around the league considering the match-up with Mississinawa as the key game in determining a likely conference championship back on December 7th, and that game did not disappoint.  The Lady Patriots received contributions needed from returners Bella Black, Kiersten Wilcox, Sydnee DeLong, and Kynnedi Hager along with newcomers sophomore Tai Mize and freshman Kenna Wilcox all making excellent contributions in the contest as well.  In the end, it was Kynnedi Hager and senior leader Bella Black who would ultimately put the Lady Patriots over the top and help them win this early titanic match-up between programs vying for a league title with Black going a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and matching teammate Kynnedi Hager with game-high 18 points.  The Patriots had to survive a furious late-game rally by the Blackhawks and 17 points from Taylee Woodbury and 14 from Mackenzie Townsend holding on for a 60-59 win at The Battleground.

The Patriots still had big games in early January with both games on the road at Arcanum & Dixie both considered strong league contenders.

Tri-Village found themselves trailing Arcanum big after one quarter before rallying late in the 2nd quarter to finally grab a 24-21 lead at the break.  A productive 3rd quarter by Kynnedi Hager and a stellar defensive effort by the Patriots held the Trojans to just 11 points in the 2nd half to help the Patriots clear another major hurdle leaving Arcanum with a 46-32 victory.

Then the Patriots traveled to Dixie on January 11th with a match-up against the Greyhounds and Sierra Brinson who became the school’s all-time leading scorer in history this year breaking the old record and is now over 1600 career points and climbing.

Tri-Village would rely on their defensive pressure to help them generate some early transition points and a 19-5 first-quarter lead.  They would hold Brinson the WOAC leading scorer at 19.5 points per game to just 14 and go on to win the game 52-32.

The Patriots would then run the table in the WOAC completing an 11-0 season with a 66-20 win over Twin Valley South on Thursday to claim the WOAC championship.

Tri-Village is currently 18-3 overall and will conclude their regular season Saturday vs DII Bellbrook for senior night.

Sophomore Kynnedi Hager has averaged a double-double to lead the Patriots this year to a league title. (Dale Barger photo)

The Patriots have been led this season by sophomore Kynnedi Hager with 13.8 points and 10 rebounds.  Their second leading scorer was senior Bella Black at 12.9 points and 8.3 rebounds through 13 games, however, a midseason injury would sideline the senior leader for the rest of the year and the Patriots were going to need someone to bring a sense of calm and direction for the Patriots that she provided during the first half of the season.

After 13 games Senior Leader Bella Black would sustain an injury and miss the rest of the season. (Dale Barger photo)

It would be the team’s other senior Kiersten Wilcox stepping into the challenge of providing the needed direction and spark.  Though Wilcox statistically at just 4.5 PPG may not seem that impactful, it’s been her patience and decision-making that make her a threat and when the time is right coming up with winning plays for the team.

Senior Kiersten Wilcox picked up the role of steadying the Patriots after the injury to Black. (Dale Barger photo)

The Patriots also got the services of Adalynn Hines at the midway point who shines with her athleticism and ability to disrupt with her defense and ability to score in transition.  Hines has averaged  8.3 points and 4 steals in the last half of the year.

Sophomore Adalynn Hines missed the first half of the season but since has infused the Patriots with athleticism and defensive intensity. (Dale Barger photo)

Sophomore point guard Tai Mize has gradually built confidence as the year has progressed not only directing the offense but becoming a three-point threat and the ability to finish at the rim.  She is averaging 9 points and 4 assists per game.

Sophomore Tai Mize îs gaining confidence and getting better every game. (Dale Barger photo)

Sophomore Sydnee DeLong has been relied on to be one of the key stoppers on defense this year and assigned to stop the other team’s top scorer but has also been able to knock down nearly 10 points per game along the way.

Sydnee DeLong is the second leader scorer for the Patriots and draws the toughest man to man assignment each week. (Dale Barger photo)

Freshman Kenna Wilcox has been a spark off the bench for the Patriots scoring nearly 6.5 points a game and a capable 3-point threat and freshman Reagyn Kynnedi gives the Patriots a capable back-up in the post and toughness needed.

Freshman Kenna Wilcox has given the Patriots a big boost off the bench this year. (Dale Barger photo)

Tri-Village ranked 7th AP in Ohio averaged 57 points on offense and gave up 32 points on defense and have successfully answered some of the questions posed before the season despite youth and adversity, they continue to grow as they embark on trying to make another long postseason run.