Bryan Patton has never been a part of one of the final four teams remaining in the state -- until now.
The fifth-year coach gets his shot when his Dublin Coffman High School girls basketball team takes the court at Ohio State at 8 p.m. Friday, March 14, in a Division I state semifinal against fifth-ranked North Canton Hoover.
It's something he believes his players always will remember.
"It's really hard to fathom," said Patton, who graduated from Westerville South in 1998. "I'm so excited for the girls because it's a special moment.
"I've (now) made it (to state) as a coach. When I played at Westerville South, we had some very good teams but never got to make that run. The girls get that chance to play against the best in the state and the chance to show what they can do."
The Shamrocks improved to 22-6 by defeating 10th-ranked Reynoldsburg 39-26 in a regional final March 7 at Otterbein.
It is the first state tournament appearance by any Dublin school in boys or girls basketball.
"We're finally over the hump after losing in regional finals in the past," said junior post player Sade Olatoye, who had 18 points and 16 rebounds against Reynoldsburg. "It's just so amazing."
Coffman was making its third regional appearance, with the others coming in 2008 and 2009. Those years the Shamrocks went on to lose to West Chester Lakota West in regional finals, falling 62-48 in 2008 and 57-49 in 2009.
The Shamrocks now focus their attention on Hoover, which improved to 24-2 by defeating Solon 65-42 in a regional final March 7. The Vikings won the Division I state title in 2002 when coach Abbey Allerding was a senior in the program.
Julie Worley, a 6-foot forward and Ashland University signee, averages 13.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals for Hoover. Another 6-0 forward, Niagara signee Kaylee Stroemple, averages 10.4 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Marquia Turner, a 5-8 senior guard headed to Xavier, averages 10.7 points, 4.1 assists and 3.0 steals. Senior guard Kelsey Lensman averages 8.7 points and 2.3 steals, and senior guard Kaitlyn Runner averages 5.3 points.
"(The Vikings) are very balanced and they have smart, heady kids who can play a lot of different ways," Patton said. "They can win games in the 30s or win them in the 70s. They also pride themselves on playing good defense and making teams uncomfortable."
Olatoye averages 15.6 points and 17.3 rebounds, and junior guard Kamerine Taylor averages 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Senior guard Griffin Tullis averages 8.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists, and sophomore guard Christine Szabo averages 8.6 points.
Junior guard Maddie Andrews (5-7) rounds out Coffman's starting lineup. She averages 3.0 points and 1.2 assists.
"The thing that's scary about (the Shamrocks) is they work so well as a team," Allerding said. "Olatoye is a phenomenal rebounder and also is great defensively, but they also have three strong guards and more coming off the bench. They are a strong team unit, clicking on the inside as well as the outside."
The state final is 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at Ohio State against top-ranked Cincinnati Princeton (24-2) or seventh-ranked Toledo Notre Dame (23-3).
The Shamrocks lost to Notre Dame 56-48 in the season opener Nov. 23, but they played without Tullis, who sat out with a left hip flexor injury.
The Eagles have a pair of 6-2 standouts in junior guard Tierra Floyd (16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists) and senior post player Kaayla McIntyre (12.9 points, 9.8 rebounds). Notre Dame is making its third consecutive appearance at state.
Princeton is led by senior twins and Ohio State signees Kelsey and Chelsea Mitchell. Kelsey is a 5-7 guard who averages 24.9 points and 4.2 assists, and Chelsea is a 5-10 forward who averages 6.6 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Chelsea Pogue, a 6-2 senior center who has signed with New Hampshire, averages 12.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
"The field is really loaded and every team has a different style," Patton said. "Across the board, there are a lot of talented kids who compete at a high level."
To reach the regional final, the Shamrocks defeated Upper Arlington 55-40 on March 4 at Otterbein.
Olatoye had 22 points and 24 rebounds, Tullis had 14 points and seven rebounds and Taylor had 11 points.