With the score tied midway through the third quarter of a Division III state semifinal March 14 at Ohio State, members of the Africentric Early College girls basketball team were no longer content to “read each other’s minds” on defense, according to senior point guard Jordan Horston.
The Nubians proceeded to hold Berlin Hiland without a field goal over the next 6 minutes, 28 seconds and pulled away for a 61-48 victory to improve to 27-0 and reach the state championship game for the ninth time.
Africentric will look to win its second consecutive state title and seventh overall when it faces Waynesville at 10:45 a.m. March 16.
“We started talking more,” Horston said. “Our defense is usually what gets our offense going.”
Hiland tied the game at 35 with 3:55 left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Brynn Mullet, but the Nubians answered with an 8-0 run that included three points, two steals and two rebounds from Alexia Smith.
A three-point play by Horston with 5:50 remaining gave Africentric a 48-36 lead.
Hiland, which lost to the Nubians 61-60 in a regional final last season, shot only 16-for-52 (30.7 percent) from the field.
The Hawks’ leading scorer, 6-foot-1 sophomore Zoe Miller, went 0-for-11 from the field and was limited to just two points. Morgan Yoder had 21 points to lead Hiland, which finished 26-3.
Smith, who made a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers as the Nubians built an 18-7 lead, finished with 19 points and six rebounds. The junior guard surpassed 1,000 career points in the game.
Horston had 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and one steal. She sat out part of the third quarter after tweaking her right ankle.
“I twist my ankles all the time, but I’ll be all right,” Horston said. “Coach (Will) McKinney says I have ‘sweet ankles.’ I’ll ice it and get ready for Saturday.”
Nyam Thornton, playing in her third game since missing time with a broken hand, added 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals off the bench.