Gabrielle Ortiz has received Division I offers to play college basketball at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette.
When she got them, she was 14 and had yet to play in a high school game.
The list of DI programs that are interested in the Racine Prairie junior since has grown to 14, which is why many consider her to be the best player in the state.
The 5-foot-7 guard will take to the Resch Center court Thursday night when the Hawks face Colfax in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal game.
Following two seasons in which the D4 field featured Eau Claire Regis standout and current Vanderbilt freshman Heather Bowe, Ortiz takes over the role as a centerpiece player at this year’s state tournament, regardless of division.
With last year’s D4 champion, Neillsville, moving up to the D3 field, the race for this year’s title is considered to be wide open.
Algoma was the top-ranked D4 team for most of the season and perhaps is considered a slight favorite in a stacked field that enters with a combined 98-6 record.
Three of the D4 squads feature at least one freshman starter in their lineup, including Cuba City, which is making its 14th state appearance and first since it won its fourth title in six years in 2010.
Should the Wolves get past an equally deep Cubans squad, they know a top talent like Ortiz is capable of powering a team to a title, as Regis’ Bowe did so two years ago against Algoma.
Ortiz is averaging 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
“She’s going to score on us, we know that, but we want to make her work for it,” Colfax coach Joe Doucette said.
Opposing coaches have described Ortiz as being an amazing ball-handler, which is something she probably developed while playing in tournaments against older kids as a youth.
She took an interest in sports at a young age because her father, Shawn, was unexpectedly forced into becoming a single parent for Gabbi and her older brother, Taylor.
Her mother, Lorie, died of sudden cardiac arrest at age 31.
She was holding then-7-month-old Gabbi when it happened.
While Ortiz has gotten plenty of attention for her athletic talents, Racine Prairie coach Melody Owsley said she has been nothing but a humble leader for her team.
She also said Ortiz isn’t focused on her college choice right now and likely will wait to make that decision until the fall.
“You dream about coaching a student of the game like a Gabrielle Ortiz,” said Owsley, who is in her 23rd season. “(She’s) definitely been the best player I’ve ever had in my program.”
Head coach: Mark Zastrow (153-16, seventh season)
Miles from Resch: 35
Season record: 24-2 (13-1, Packerland Conference, tied first)
State appearance: seventh
Last time at state: 2011 (D4 runner-up to Eau Claire Regis, 56-42)
Notes: After returning to state for the first time since 1986 two years ago, the top-ranked Wolves are looking to win their first title in 27 years and third overall. ... Coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, senior Taylor Schmidt earned the Packerland Conference player of the year and is averaging 12.5 points and 4.0 assists. ... Algoma’s other starters include senior McKenzie Mueller (4.9 ppg), juniors Meg Ryan (5.0 ppg) and Kennedy Blahnik (9.7 ppg) and freshman Anna Dier (8.0 pgg). ... Blahnik, who along with Schmidt played at state two years ago, missed 10 games midway through the season with a knee injury. ... Dier was inserted into the starting lineup midway through the season and is averaging 6.6 rebounds to lead the team. ... Dier’s older sister, Lizzy, was a senior on the 2011 runner-up team and her mother, Loni, was on Algoma’s 1979 and 1980 state teams. ... Blahnik’s mother, Terri, was on the Wolves’ first title team in ‘81 and she has two aunts that also played at state for Algoma in the ‘80s. ... Mueller’s aunt, Lori, was on the ‘85 runner-up team along with Schmidt’s aunt, Jenny Stangel. ... Junior Kathy Bluett’s sister, Abbey, was a junior on the 2011 runner-up team.
Coach’s take: “If she really wanted to focus on playing college basketball, Division 1 would not be out of the realm for her.” – Mark Zastrow, Algoma coach on junior Kennedy Blahnik, who has given a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin for track and field.
|Southern Door||68-25 W|
|N.E.W. Lutheran||69-44 W|
|De Pere||46-52 L|
|Sussex Hamilton||48-35 W|
|Sturgeon Bay||50-26 W|
|Two Rivers||48-36 W|
|Southern Door||47-27 W|
|N.E.W. Lutheran||56-32 W|
|Manitowoc Lutheran||61-36 W|
|G.B. Preble||50-37 W|
|Sturgeon Bay||54-13 W|
|Oshkosh Lourdes||58-35 W|
Head coach: Jeff Pustina (533-113, 26th season)
Miles from Resch: 216
Season record: 25-1 (14-0, Southwest Wisconsin Activities League, first)
State appearance: 14th
Last time at state: 2010 (Won D3 title over Oostburg, 53-40)
Notes: The Cubans are riding a 17-game winning streak and aiming for their 10th state title. ... The squad won four titles during five state appearances from 2005-10. ... Cuba City goes about 9-10 players deep in its rotation and starts three sophomores (Chloe Pustina, Shay Lierman, Mollie Wedige) and a freshman (Jessi Marti). ... The backcourt is made up of Pustina (8.7 points per game), the coach’s daughter, and Marti (9.6 ppg), who has started the last nine games after missing time earlier in the season with a broken hand. ... Wedige averages 5.8 rebounds to lead the team and 9.1 ppg. ... The only senior starter is Kayla Marti (6.4 ppg), who is Jessi’s older sister. ... Freshman Kaitylin Kaiser (4.7 ppg) has seen her minutes goes up over the latter portion of the season. ... This will be the second time in five months that a Cuba City team will face a Packerland Conference team in a state semifinal at the Resch Center, as the Cubans’ volleyball team fell to Oconto in D3 state semifinal in November. ... Cuba City’s boys basketball team lost in the state semifinals to Milwaukee Dominican last week at the Kohl Center.
Coach’s take: “Maybe not to this level of youth, but we’ve had state tournament teams, state championship teams that had three sophomores starting at one point. It just worked out this year where those kids worked their way in and are having some success.” – Jeff Pustina, Cuba City coach
|Richland Center||50-44 W|
|Mineral Point||41-30 W|
|Prairie du Chien||45-26 W|
|Mil. Washington||64-23 W|
|Mineral Point||53-38 W|
Head coach: Joe Doucette (456-80, 23rd season)
Miles from Resch: 207
Season record: 25-1 (16-0, Dunn-St. Croix Conference)
State appearance: third
Last time at state: 2008 (D3 semifinal loss to Markesan, 41-35)
Notes: Notes: Colfax enters the Resch Center on a 17-game winning streak and is looking for its first win at state after falling in the semifinals in its previous two appearances. ... The Vikings’ starters are seniors Hannah Hover (7.0 points per game) and Ryleigh Prochnow (6.5 ppg), juniors Mallie Doucette (11.6 ppg) and Braanna Steen (9.4 ppg), and sophomore Dannielle Dachel (4.2 ppg). ... Players that see significant minutes of the bench include senior Brittany Rothbauer (2.6 ppg), junior Taylor Shipman (3.6 ppg) and sophomores Alexis Rudi (4.2 ppg) and Cheyenne Olson (3.6 ppg). ... Doucette, the coach’s daughter, leads the team in scoring, rebounds (4.5) and assists (1.8). ... Coach Joe Doucette’s other two daughters were on Colfax’s 2008 state team and both went on to play college basketball. Courtney wrapped up her senior season at Minnesota-Duluth, while Samantha was a sophomore for St. Scholastica this year. ... Prochnow, the team’s best defender, will likely be given the task of guarding Racine Prairie junior Gabrielle Ortiz in the semifinals. ... The Vikings shoot 32.3 percent from 3-point range (119-for-368).
Coach’s take: “If we’re going to have any chance at all it’s going to have to start with defending and rebounding,” – Joe Doucette, Colfax coach
|Plum City||60-27 W|
|Spring Valley||57-22 W|
|Saint Croix Central||55-14 W|
|Minneapolis North||72-14 W|
|Minneapolis DeLaSalle||33-58 L|
|Glenwood City||57-23 W|
|Elk Mound||41-28 W|
|Eau Claire Regis||42-28 W|
|Plum City||50-24 W|
|Spring Valley||58-20 W|
|Saint Croix Central||42-15 W|
|Glenwood City||69-35 W|
|Elk Mound||36-35 W|
|Eau Claire Regis||54-31 W|
Head coach: Melody Owsley (299-239, 23rd season)
Miles from Resch: 142
Season record: 24-2 (14-2, Metro Classic Conference, tied first)
State appearance: second
Last time at state: 2004 (Won D4 title over South Shore, 57-44)
Notes: The Hawks are looking to make it 2-for-2 at the state tournament after winning the D4 title in its only other appearance in 2004. ... Junior guard Gabrielle Ortiz averages 21.0 points and 4.5 assists per game to lead the team. ... Ortiz is considered by many to be the best player in the state and has 14 Division I college offers, having received her first two from the University of Wisconsin and Marquette before she played a high school game. ... In addition to Ortiz, juniors Kate Andreucci (11.9 ppg) and Megan Wolf (7.4 ppg) have also started since their freshmen seasons. ... Andreucci averages 7.1 rebounds to lead the team. ... Freshman guard Sammie Woodward (6.7 ppg) has returned to the starting lineup after missing 14 games with a hip injury. ... Forward Anna Gaertig (3.5 ppg) is a first-year starter and the only senior on the team. ... Racine Prairie shared the Metro Classic Conference title with Racine St. Catherine’s, who handed the Hawks their last loss (55-54) on Feb. 12.
Coach’s take: “She’s our go-to player but were not just a one (player) team of Gabbi Ortiz. We have good balance, and she makes us better across the board.” – Melody Owsley, Racine Prairie
|Kenosha St. Joseph||62-45 W|
|Union Grove||52-20 W|
|Mil. Dominican||52-64 L|
|Kenosha St. Joseph||74-41 W|
|Westosha Central||57-38 W|
|St. Thomas More||68-29 W|
|Shoreland Lutheran||61-40 W|
|Martin Luther||66-49 W|
|Catholic Central||66-34 W|
|Racine St. Catherine’s||48-35 W|
|Racine Lutheran||67-37 W|
|Martin Luther||37-32 W|
|Mil. Dominican||30-27 W|
|Catholic Central||60-22 W|
|St. Thomas More||66-32 W|
|Shoreland Lutheran||54-50 W|
|Racine St. Catherine’s||54-55 L|
|Racine Lutheran||58-32 W|
|South Milwaukee||44-42 W|
|Hope Christian||68-20 W|
|Martin Luther||51-29 W|
|Mil. Dominican||45-33 W|
|Fond du Lac Springs||53-50 W|