For the first time in 19 years, the Division I girls basketball state championship trophy is heading back to Pickerington.

Madison Greene had 16 points and Adrian Crockwell and Kyla Whitehead both scored nine to fuel a second-half comeback as Pickerington High School Central defeated Solon 49-45 in the state final March 17 at Ohio State, bringing the program its first state championship since 1999 and seventh overall.

“Getting this program to the standards it should be drove me to help bring it back,” Tigers coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. “This is a great feeling. We always tell the girls we have to manufacture 45 or 50 points and we had to manufacture them tonight. It was hard. It was tough.”

Crockwell and Maliya Perry each hit a 3-pointer out of halftime to erase a 24-23 Solon lead, and the Tigers would lead by as many as 14 points later in the third quarter before the Comets cut their deficit but never retook the lead.

Whitehead made a three-point play to give Central a 44-38 lead with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left, and hit a 15-foot jumper moments later for a 46-40 lead.

“I saw the basket. It was open, I shot it, it went in and we got happy,” Whitehead said. “I can’t even describe the feeling right now. I’ve never felt this happy in my life. We worked our butts off this season. There was no way I was letting us lose. No way.”

Mariah Modkins made a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left to trim Solon’s deficit to 47-45.

The teams exchanged steals in the final 29 seconds, and Solon’s Valencia Myers found herself with the ball underneath the basket with 14 seconds left but opted not to take a shot, had the ball knocked away into a tie-up and Central won possession.

Greene then sank two free throws with 12.5 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

Myers, a McDonald’s All-American Game selection, had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead Solon, which finished 26-3.

Central trailed for the first 11:03 until Greene hit a 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 19-18 lead.

Jada Tate added two points and a team-high 11 rebounds off the bench for Central, which finished 28-2.

“This is unreal,” Greene said. “Our second half is our strongest half. We talk about whatever we have to fix in the locker room (at halftime) and what we have to improve on and we showed it on the court.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave