The Dublin Coffman High School girls basketball team tried to treat its Division I state semifinal against North Canton Hoover on March 14 at Ohio State like a typical regular-season contest.
Making their first state appearance, the Shamrocks maintained their pregame ritual of listening to music and dancing in the Value City Arena locker room.
“Before the game, they were laughing,” coach Bryan Patton said. “They were very similar to how they were in the regional final against Reynoldsburg (a 39-26 win March 7). You hit the floor and you start looking around, you never know what’s going through their heads.”
Sophomore guard Christine Szabo hit a 3-pointer 1 minute, 6 seconds into the game to put Coffman ahead 3-2, but that would be its only lead. The Shamrocks trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter and never recovered, losing to Hoover 61-44 to finish 22-7.
From the outset, Hoover focused on containing 6-foot-1 post player Sade Olatoye, who had dominated opponents for much of the season. The junior was called for an illegal screen 34 seconds into the game and was less aggressive than usual for the remainder of the contest.
Olatoye led the team in scoring (15.2 points per game) and rebounding (16.9) and was named third-team all-state, second-team all-district and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year.
But against Hoover, Olatoye had only one point and six rebounds in the first half and finished with seven points and eight rebounds, far below her season averages. She was guarded primarily by the Vikings’ Kaylee Stroemple, a 5-11 forward.
“Sade has been such a big part of this (postseason) run that you can’t really say much to her,” Patton said. “In a lot of ways, you just say, ‘Let’s get going,’ and she never did. That girl (Stroemple) was strong, she was relentless and Sade got the early foul and I don’t know if that mentally led her to not rebound as hard or defend as physical as she needed to be.
“For us, if she’s not playing well, we have a hard time scoring the ball inside.”
Stroemple had 18 points and eight rebounds to lead Hoover, which outscored Coffman 40-12 in the paint and outrebounded the Shamrocks 32-20.
“Obviously, Sade Olatoye is a very good basketball player, so we were very aware of that,” Hoover coach Abbey Allerding said.
“Once we got her in a little bit of foul trouble, we thought it was important to continue to go at her. All credit to her, she’s a very good player, but I thought our players did a good job of exploiting that.”
Coffman had 13 turnovers in the first half and 20 for the game. It trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, including 14 at halftime, and by as many as 19 points in the second half, including 12 after the third quarter.
Griffin Tullis, who averaged 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds for the season, also got into foul trouble for the Shamrocks, who got no closer than seven points in the second half.
The senior guard was held scoreless and managed only one rebound.
Junior guard Kamerine Taylor had 17 points and Szabo scored 11 to lead Coffman, which is eyeing a return trip to state next season.
“We’re ready. We’ll start tomorrow if we can,” Olatoye said. “We’re just ready to hopefully get back to this point because being the first Dublin (boys or girls basketball) team (to reach the state tournament), it’s magical just to be down here at (Schottenstein Center) with all our fans, family and friends. Coming back next year is going to be another grind throughout the season, but it’s all worth it.”