Springboro 'bleeding blue' for girls basketball team state appearance

Mar. 14—The Springboro High School girls basketball team may have the best ambassadors for the Warren County community.

The Panthers, making their first state appearance in 46 years, are spreading enthusiasm outside the high school gymnasium.

The Panthers, 23-5, face Pickerington Central at 8 p.m. Friday in the Division I state semifinal at UD Arena. Olmsted Falls meets Rocky River Magnificat in the other semifinal at 6 p.m. The winners play for the state championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

The last time the Panthers made it to the state tournament, they finished as state runner-up in 1978.

Springboro Chamber of Commerce President Dave Donaldson, who has lived in Springboro for 25 years, said this is the "most hyped" he's seen residents regarding the girls basketball program.

"The way they're playing and the way they're getting it done is creating community pride," Donaldson said. "They have been a shot in the arm for the basketball program and a positive image for the city."

And when you're Chamber president, it's all about image, he said.

When potential residents see a vibrant academic and athletic school district, they're more likely to move into that community, and the additional population draws more businesses, he said.

Deanna Bonilla, manager of The Fan Store on Main Street, said there's "a frenzy" throughout the community as the basketball team is two wins from a state championship.

"The entire city has come together to see these girls play," she said. "There is a lot of excitement."

That has translated into more sales at the non-profit store that donates proceeds to Springboro athletes. She said spirit wear is selling well and Springboro state championship shirts are being printed this week.

Springboro High School Principal Kyle Martin and Athletic Director Austin Rhoads also have seen how the community has rallied around the girls basketball team and other students participating in extracurricular activities.

"They appreciate how our students learn and are committed and dedicated to their craft," Martin said.

He knows that first-hand. He has two daughters, junior Bryn and sophomore Ady, on the girls basketball team. Bryn was a nominee for Ohio's Ms. Basketball award.

"It's surreal," Martin said.

The combination of academic excellence and athletic success "puts Springboro on the map," Martin said.

Rhoads said the basketball team will leave the high school at 5 pm. Friday,and fans are encouraged to meet downtown and cheer on the team as it heads to the arena. Most of the school's allotment of tickets was sold as of Tuesday afternoon.

He expects "a great atmosphere" inside UD Arena.

"There's a buzz right now," Rhoads said.

Heather Sukola, owner of Heather's Coffee and Cafe in downtown Springboro, said the city is "bleeding blue" due to the basketball team's success. A group gathers every morning at Heather's and much of the conversation centers around basketball, she said.

Sukola, a three-sport standout and 1989 Springboro graduate, was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. She has purchased her ticket for Friday's game.

"It will be all blue," she said of the arena.