Having seen its 11-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate, the Pickerington High School Central girls basketball team did not panic during a Division I regional final against Westerville South on March 9.

With their first state tournament berth in 12 years on the line, the Tigers reeled off an 8-2 run to end the game and fend off the Wildcats 60-52 at Otterbein.

Madison Greene’s layup with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left gave Central the lead for good at 51-49 after it had led 49-38 to start the final quarter, and after missing their first six free-throw attempts of the period, the Tigers made five of their last six to seal the victory.

“It was about believing in each other, sticking to our game plan and trying to get a lead so we could switch up our defense a little bit,” Central coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. “We knew (South) would keep coming. It was about staying calm and finishing out the game.

“We were too clustered and too tight (in the first half) and we were able to open up the floor.”

Greene had 17 points, Adrian Crockwell had 16 points and seven rebounds and Kyla Whitehead added 11 points and 10 rebounds for Central, which improved to 26-2 and will play Mason or West Chester Lakota West in a state semifinal March 16 at Ohio State.

It marks the 12th state tournament appearance for the Tigers, who are seeking their first state title since 1999 and seventh overall.

Videos

•Central closes out its win.

•Central receives the regional championship trophy.

“We’ve come this far and we deserved to win,” said Crockwell, who kick-started a 24-5 third-quarter run with a 3-pointer on which she was hit in the face by a South defender. “We had to keep our heads. I felt like we definitely changed what we were doing (in the second half).”

Cailin Duffy, whose layup with 2:50 left pulled South into a 49-all tie, led the Wildcats with 15 points and five rebounds. Peyton Guice added 12 points and five rebounds and Sommer Pitzer scored 10 points for South, which finished 21-6 and was in its first regional.

“We never fold. We don’t back down (and) we don’t back up. That’s what I love about this team,” South coach Silas Williams said. “We’ve been through it all during the course of the season.”

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