Before this year, the closest the Pickerington High School Central girls basketball team had come to a Division I state championship since the district split attendance between two high schools 15 years ago was in 2006, when a freshman named Emilee Harmon led the Tigers to a state semifinal.

Central was in position to defeat Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame when Harmon's would-be go-ahead basket in the final seconds was waved off because of a traveling violation and the Tigers eventually lost, 54-51.

That night, Harmon promised then-coach Ken Schneider that she would get Central back to the state tournament.

It took 12 years, but it finally happened. And with Harmon now an assistant coach on coach Johnathan Hedgepeth's staff, the Tigers added another chapter to perhaps the most magical year in Central sports history.

The Tigers defeated Solon 49-45 in the Division I state championship game March 17 at Ohio State, capping a 28-2 season and giving the program its seventh title and first since 1999.

"I texted (Schneider) earlier and said, 'I told you I'd get us back; I just didn't say when,' " Harmon said with a wide smile after the game.

"Just to see the program back where it should be, that's all I ever wanted for these girls was to understand the tradition and legacy of this school and understand what putting on that jersey means. Now they do.

"They've done more than what they even understand they've done."

Central's football team won its first state championship in December and the boys basketball team will attempt to win its second title and first since 2012 this weekend.

The Tigers are scheduled to play Solon in a state semifinal Friday, March 23, at Ohio State. The winner will play Cincinnati Moeller or Lorain in the state final Saturday, March 24, at OSU.

The girls team's other six championships came between 1985 and 1999 as part of one of the most dominant runs in Ohio girls basketball history. The school then known as Pickerington advanced to the state semifinals 10 times from 1985-2000, an era that also featured a 181-game winning streak in league play and teams with Division I-bound players almost every season.

The coach of those teams, Dave Butcher, has led the program at Pickerington High School North since the district added the second high school.

Junior guard Madison Greene had 16 points against Solon. Senior guard Adrian Crockwell and senior forward Kyla Whitehead each added nine points.

Whitehead added both a solid defensive effort on Comets standout Valencia Myers as well as baskets on consecutive possessions late in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a six-point lead.

The only thing Central was unable to do last weekend was bring one of its biggest team supporters to the tournament.

Danny Feltwell, who is from Margate, New Jersey, is a survivor of T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The Tigers befriended him during a trip to the Diamond State Classic in Wilmington, Delaware, in December, and promised him that if they made it to the state semifinals, they would bring him to Columbus for the weekend.

That turned out not to be possible because even though Feltwell is in remission, he began pre-bone marrow transplant treatment earlier this week.

He will undergo five days of chemotherapy and three days of double treatment, full-body radiation before a bone marrow transplant Tuesday, March 27.

Feltwell watched the game and trophy presentation live via phone.

"I know Danny is smiling," Greene said. "This was all for him."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Additional photographs, story, Page B1; A slideshow of photographs is online at ThisWeekNEWS.com.