The loss suffered by the Ohio State women’s basketball team in the Sweet 16 represented more than the end of the season — it represented the last time Jantel Lavender would don scarlet and gray.
The vacancy left by the four-time Big Ten Player of the Year will be coach Jim Foster’s toughest obstacle, as he will look toward Ashley Adams to improve on her solid freshman season and develop into the type of low-post threat Lavender posed.
“We have to find someone else,” Foster said. “Sammy (Prahalis is) back — another opportunity for her to lead and help some of our younger players grow over the summer.”
Samantha Prahalis will be a senior next season under the expectation that the team will be hers to lead. Her 14.5 points per game were second, behind only Lavender. She finished Big Ten play as the conference leader in assists, with 6.9 per game, ranking third in the country.
It’s likely that the majority of her assists next season will be from baskets made by Adams, who shot 61 percent from the field this year.
After averaging less than six minutes of playing time over her first nine games, Adams moved into the starting lineup and contributed heavy minutes after senior Sarah Schulze suffered a serious knee injury Jan. 16.
From then on, Adams averaged more than 27 minutes per game and started 16 of the team’s last 17 games. At 6-foot-4, Adams presented opposing teams with the challenge of facing two sizeable players in the post when paired with Lavender.
After Schulze went down, Adams averaged 8.2 points per game. Before she moved into the starting lineup, she averaged fewer than two points a contest.
Guard Brittany Johnson is the other senior starter leaving. Johnson was the team’s most potent threat from beyond the 3-point line, making 42.7 percent of her attempts.
Johnson was the 29th player in program history to record 1,000 points, and was second in the Big Ten, averaging 2.9 threes per game. It will be up to guards Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes to fill the void Johnson leaves next year.
Hill, entering her junior campaign, earned Big Ten All-Defensive team honors this season, and was voted honorable mention for the conference. She was third on the team in scoring, with 12.8 points per game, and handled the ball when teams looked to shut down Prahalis.
Stokes became known as the team’s spark plug off the bench, often providing the Buckeyes with intangibles.
Others who will likely see increased roles next season are centers Aleksandra Dobranic and Darryce Moore, forwards Martina Ellerbe, Brianna Sanders and Emilee Harmon, and guard Amy Scullion.
Foster has four incoming freshmen signed for next season, including guards Raven Ferguson and Kalpana Beach. Ferguson is rated as the No. 35 overall prospect and sixth among point guards by ESPN. Beach is ranked as the No. 26 incoming freshman guard.
“You just sort of reload and get ready,” Foster said after the Sweet 16 loss. “You can’t dwell.”