As opposed to last year, when it reached the Division I state tournament for the first time in 12 years, the Pickerington High School Central girls basketball team’s celebration after a 66-39 rout of Reynoldsburg in a regional final March 8 at Otterbein was rather tame.
The Tigers cut down the nets, hugged each other and took plenty of pictures, but their minds ultimately are on repeating as state champions next weekend.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” guard Madison Greene said. “Even though we’ve been ranked No. 1 in our conference (the OCC-Ohio Division) and in the district and in the state, nothing is guaranteed. It’s still an amazing feeling.”
Maliya Perry’s 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals and 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals from Greene keyed Central’s dominance from the start. The Tigers thrived off effective half-court traps and dominated inside to take leads of 10-2 within the first four minutes and 36-16 by halftime.
Uju Ezeudu had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Reynoldsburg, but she had only four points in the first half. The Tigers outrebounded the Raiders 36-25.
“Our main focus was to stop Uju. She is their best player,” Perry said. “We wanted to come out and put pressure on them and dictate the tempo.”
The Tigers improved to 27-1 in winning their 13th regional championship and will play Canton McKinley or Toledo Notre Dame Academy in a state semifinal March 15 at Ohio State.
Reynoldsburg, which finished 21-7, is the most recent team to have stayed within 11 points of Central, having lost to the Tigers 56-48 on Feb. 1 in a game that clinched the OCC-Ohio championship for Central.
“We came out and tried to play some zone to hang around for a little while,” Raiders coach Jack Purtell said. “We struggled handling the basketball, we struggled shooting the basketball (14-for-43 from the field) and we struggled rebounding the basketball. That usually is not a good recipe for success.”