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Dalton basketball star earns Bates scholarship


The 2023 Roy Bates Scholarship winners front from left, Annabel Rodriguez, Chippewa; Ella Lunsford, Dalton; Averi Haley, Orrville; back row, Zack Miller, Triway; Trey Barkman, Waynedale; Blake Bowen, Wooster; Carter Piatt, Smithville and Gavin Phillips, Northwestern. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Roy S. Bates Scholarship, according to Wayne County Community Foundation.



Gazette & News sports writer

Ella Lunsford, who was a force on the court for the Lady Dawgs varsity girls basketball team, is Dalton’s recipient of the 2023 Roy Bates scholarship.

Eight seniors from Wayne County high schools were each awarded a $2,500 scholarship from the Bates Foundation.

Lunsford said she was surprised when she received the notification regarding the scholarship.

She noted how the area is filled with talented athletes who were also in the running for the honor.

“I was really shocked,” Lunsford said. “I had put my scholarship in and I really wanted to get it, but I knew that there were so many other really talented people in our school and also in the county. It was a really cool accomplishment. It showed me that all the hard work I put in paid off.”

This is the 30th year the Bates scholarship has been awarded. Roy Bates, who was a teacher, coach and athlete, died in 2004. The scholarship is awarded to seniors who play basketball, baseball or softball, attend a Wayne County school and have at least a 3.0 gpa.

Applicants are evaluated first on character, then grades and finally athletic ability. In addition to Lunsford, the other recipients are Trey Barkman (Waynedale), Blake Bowen (Wooster), Averi Haley (Orrville), Zack Miller (Triway), Gavin Phillips (Northwestern), Carter Piatt (Smithville) and Annabel Rodriguez (Chippewa).

Lunsford was a member of the varsity basketball team and competed in track and field.

She has a 4.0 gpa and she finished first in her class. Lunsford will attend Ursuline College in the fall to major in nursing. She is drawn to the field of nursing because of her desire to help others.

“I really like helping people,” said Lunsford. “Also, I want to be a pediatric nurse, so being around kids and helping them to feel safe and comfortable when they are in that situation makes me happy to do it.”

Lunsford, who was a shooting guard before moving to the post her senior year since she was the tallest on the team, has been playing basketball since fifth grade. At that age, she liked watching the high school games and she was inspired by Lady Dawgs standout Makenna Geiser to start playing basketball. Lunsford remembered how she wanted to be just like Geiser. Now that her high school playing days are over, Lunsford will continue her basketball career in college while playing for Ursuline. She has some goals in mind for her new athletic chapter.

“I just want to enjoy it, work as hard as I can and meet new people,” said Lunsford.

Competing in high school sports had a profound impact on Lunsford and the experience taught her many life lessons.

“It taught me so much about hard work, determination and seeing the results come true,” said Lunsford. “All the hard work I’ve put in has paid off. It makes me want to keep working hard in the future.”

One of Lunsford’s favorite sports memories from her high school career was the 2023 basketball district final game. The Lady Dawgs were the underdog against a powerful Richmond Heights team, but Dalton pulled off the upset to claim the district title.

Katie Miller was Lunsford’s head coach during her varsity career with the Lady Dawgs. Miller noted how Lunsford was not only an excellent athlete, but she also put in the same effort off the court to support other DHS students.

“Ella has been an outstanding student-athlete at Dalton,” Miller said. “Ella’s accomplishments both on and off the court are due to the person she is. As a basketball player, she put in hours of work in the off-season to improve her game. We were very fortunate and thankful to have Ella as part of the basketball program. Her hard work earned her several awards and a college scholarship to continue her athletic career at Ursuline College. As a student, she always volunteered to help at many events/fundraisers and regularly attended school events to support other Dalton students. Ella has worked for everything she has earned and should be very proud of what she has accomplished and look forward to the many more goals she will achieve in her life. Congratulations to Ella.”

Lunsford joins the group of notable Dalton athletes who have received the Bates scholarship. Baseball star Kole Miller was Dalton’s recipient of the scholarship in 2022. Tess Denning received the award in 2021 and Kelsey Shoup held the honor in 2020. Lunsford offered advice for students who are interested in playing high school sports.

“I would say to take advantage of all the opportunities you get,” Lunsford said. “Make memories whenever you can.”



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