BERLIN -- The difference between being where the Pickerington High School North girls basketball team is and what coach Dave Butcher believes is “just this close to being a very good team” is something he described while holding his thumb and index finger inches apart Jan. 21 at Berlin Hiland.
The Panthers also were about that close to beating Solon before falling 49-48 in the 18th game of the 20-game, three-day Classic in the Country.
The game featured eight lead changes and North led 45-43 with 2 minutes, 55 seconds to go, but could not hang on.
A pair of foul calls that went against the Panthers during the closing seconds ended their hopes of beating Solon, which received votes in last week’s Division I state poll and improved to 10-3.
North fell to 10-6.
“(Solon) definitely stepped up on defense,” North junior post player Morgan Bassett-Smith said. “It was a close game, neck-and-neck until the last second.”
Solon took its first lead of the fourth quarter at 47-45 with 1:19 to go and made it 48-45 with 31.4 seconds left when Martha Thompson made the first of two free throws.
With 8.2 seconds left, North sophomore guard Emily Thomas hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 48.
On the ensuing possession, the Comets drove down the floor to set up a shot, but North’s Christy Macioce was called for an off-the-ball foul on a screen. Solon’s Alexis Gray hit the first free throw, but missed the second with 3.4 seconds to go.
A jump ball was called on the rebound, which gave the ball back to Solon on the alternate possession rule with 0.8 seconds to go.
On the inbound play, Solon was whistled for a foul before the clock started, but it was ruled to be a non-shooting foul that gave the ball back to North.
Thomas heaved up a shot from just behind halfcourt that fell just short of the rim to give the win to Solon.
“They originally signaled a one-and-one (with 0.8 seconds left) but then another official said it was a non-shooting foul,” Butcher said.
Thomas, who missed the beginning of the season before returning from an ankle injury, finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Jordan Toohey had nine points.
Christy Macioce was held to eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.
Kristen Confroy led Solon with 20 points.
“We missed some foul shots,” said Butcher, whose team went 6-for-13 from 3-point range, but made just six of 13 foul shots. “If we could have given Macioce more looks, it could have helped.”