Pickerington High School Central girls basketball coach Johnathan Hedgepeth didn’t plan to get a lot of sleep March 16, knowing he and his team had less than 24 hours to get a handle on Solon, their opponent in the Division I state championship game March 17 at Ohio State.
Hedgepeth hoped his girls would be able to rest and refuel, but they acknowledged that might be a challenge as the Tigers closed to within one win of their first state title since 1999.
“I want us to do all the work and let them get some rest,” Hedgepeth said. “We’re going to be back here pretty quickly. But we’re thrilled to be here.”
Behind Madison Greene’s 25 points, 16 of which came in the fourth quarter, Central beat Mason 62-48 in a state semifinal March 16 at OSU. Maliya Perry added 13 points and nine rebounds as the Tigers improved to 27-2 and won their first state tournament game since 2000.
Central is seeking its seventh state championship.
Greene scored 14 consecutive points in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back three-point plays that put the Tigers ahead 50-35 with 4 minutes, 44 seconds left.
“Our guards could attack their guards so we were able to take it to them,” Greene said. “We stayed with them defensively and didn’t let them get some good looks.”Videos
•Central coach Johnathan Hedgepeth
•Hedgepeth and Central player Maliya Perry
Largely behind the defensive effort of Kyla Whitehead, the Tigers held Mason forward and Florida State commit Sammie Puisis to 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the floor. Tihanna Fulton also scored 14 points, and she and Puisis both had eight rebounds as Mason finished 24-4.
“We talked to (Whitehead) specifically and reminded everybody we have to know where (Puisis) is at all times,” Hedgepeth said. “Kyla did a great job fighting through screens and staying attached to Sammie.”
Solon defeated Wadsworth 52-31 in the other semifinal March 16.
McDonald’s All-American game selection Valencia Myers, a Florida State commit, led Solon with 19 points. Akron commit Gabby Mitchell added 10.