During a Division I regional semifinal March 5, the Reynoldsburg High School girls basketball team played to its inside strength against one of the area’s best outside shooting teams in Newark.
The Raiders held Newark to just 15-for-60 shooting from the floor and outrebounded the Wildcats 52-28 on their way to a 47-40 win at Otterbein.
Uju Ezeudu had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead Reynoldsburg, which improved to 21-6 and advanced to play defending state champion Pickerington Central in the regional final at 7:30 p.m. March 8 at Otterbein.
“We outrebounded (Newark) by a pretty big margin,” said Raiders coach Jack Purtell, whose team avenged a 69-56 loss to the Wildcats on Dec. 18. “That’s how we win most of our games and that was the difference right there. I’d like to think our defense had a little to do with (the Wildcats’ offensive struggles), but they just didn’t shoot it very well.”
The Raiders led 19-15 at halftime and opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run.
Newark got back to within 39-32 with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left on a three-point play by Katie Shumate, but Reynoldsburg made it 42-35 on a three-point play by Ezeudu and led 45-37 with 39.5 seconds remaining.
Shumate hit a 3-pointer with 23.7 seconds left to cut it to 45-40 before the Raiders completed the victory.
Newark, which was making its fifth consecutive regional appearance, finished 23-4.
“I’m never secure until the (final) buzzer goes off,” Ezeudu said. “When they hit a 3 and (there) was 23 seconds (left), I was like, ‘We’ve still got to play hard, still got to play defense.’ Now we’re just waiting for (the regional final).”
Reynoldsburg, which also got 14 points and seven rebounds from Alexia Mobley and nine rebounds from Bre Johnson, is hoping to be at full strength when it faces Central for the regional title.
Junior guard Kyria Walker has been battling sickness and did not start against Newark.
“We’re going to have to handle pressure better than we did tonight,” Purtell said. “I can live with 19 (turnovers), but it felt like 119 from where I was sitting.”
Reynoldsburg was swept by Central in OCC-Ohio Division play this season, losing 71-47 on Dec. 21 at home and 56-48 on Feb. 1 at Central.
Pickerington Central 71, Westerville South 44
The defense that Central tested to begin a Division I regional semifinal March 5 at Otterbein wasn’t as effective as the Tigers hoped, so they reverted to what they knew.
As a result, Central is one win away from a second consecutive regional title and three from repeating as state champions.
Using swarming half-court and full-court presses and traps, the Tigers overwhelmed South with a 25-1 run spanning the second and third quarters after trailing 10-2 early to pull away.
Maliya Perry’s 16 points and seven rebounds led a balanced effort from Central, which improved to 26-1. Madison Greene added 14 points, five steals and three assists and Jocelyn Tate had 13 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Central forced 18 turnovers and outrebounded South 33-17.
“We started off in a half-court man (-to-man defense) because we wanted to see what they could do in the half-court and how our girls would adjust, but it forced our girls to play a little lax,” Tigers coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. “When we went into full-court man, it helped us a lot with creating some tempo. Our press forced them into some uncomfortable situations.”
After the game was tied at 24 with 3 minutes, 29 seconds left in the first half, South was held without a field goal for more than 11 minutes. Central led 34-25 at halftime and shut out the Wildcats for the first 3:57 of the third quarter.
Anyssa Jones had 20 points and Aja Austin scored nine to lead South, which finished 20-6.
“We worked on their pressure, but there’s only so much you can do to simulate their length and their athleticism,” Wildcats coach Erick Herzberg said. “Once the momentum shifted, it was tough. I could tell the girls were kind of out of it.”
—Dave PurpuraDivision II
Thornville Sheridan 59, Eastmoor Academy 44
Eastmoor lost in a Division II regional semifinal March 5 at Zanesville to finish 20-6.
Samaria Rodgers-Gossett had 15 points and Mallory Barnes scored 11 for the Warriors, who trailed 32-18 at halftime.
Rachel Cooke had 17 points for Sheridan, which improved to 21-2 and advanced to play New Philadelphia in the regional final March 8.