The Africentric Early College girls basketball team is back in its third consecutive Division III state championship game after beating Smithville 44-22 in a state semifinal March 14 at Ohio State.
In the fourth quarter, the Nubians outscored the Smithies 20-4.
Africentric was paced by senior post player Alexa Hart, who finished with eight points and 11 blocked shots.
“In the second half we picked up the intensity, and with (Hart’s) blocks, that helped us,” senior guard Ayrielle Stith said. “At halftime we all came together and just talked about our mistakes and how we wanted to play better in the second half.”
Africentric improves to 26-2 and will play Versailles for the championship at 5:15 p.m. March 15 at Ohio State.
The Nubians led 17-11 at the half despite making just seven of 23 shots from the floor.
They scored the first four points of the third quarter and led 24-14 with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter before Smithville closed to within 24-18 by the end of the period.
Africentric then went on 18-2 run.
Stith finished with 11 points, Kyrah Jones had four points and six rebounds, Darianne Seward had eight points, five rebounds and four assists and Sierra Harley added four points and three rebounds for the Nubians.
Smithville got nine points from Olivia Besancon but committed 22 turnovers and shot just 9-for-40 from the floor as the Smithies finished with a 26-3 record.
Africentric beat Smithville 57-37 in a 2012 state semifinal on the way to winning the title but lost to Anna 67-49 in last year’s state final.
“I didn’t think we played our best basketball,” coach Will McKinney said. “I thought the kids coming off the bench gave some good, assertive effort.”