For three quarters in the Division I state final March 16 at Ohio State, the Pickerington High School Central and Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame girls basketball teams were virtual mirror images.
Quick guards and stingy defenses made the game a track meet at times, but both coaches knew what keyed an 18-0 run that blew the game open and led Mount Notre Dame to a 52-31 win, denying Central its second consecutive state championship and eighth overall.
“Their open looks went in and we couldn’t seem to throw ours in the ocean. We knew we could compete with them and at some point, somebody was going to have a run. It wasn’t us,” Tigers coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. “We got some good looks and just couldn’t make them. We had a rough weekend shooting the basketball. We survived one game (defeating Toledo Notre Dame Academy 52-42 in a state semifinal March 15), but not tonight.”
Madison Greene’s 10 points led Central, which finished 28-2 and trailed just 30-29 in the final seconds of the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Skye Williams. The Tigers were outscored 22-2 the rest of the way, with their only points coming on an Erin Whitehead field goal with 1:37 remaining.
Arguably the daggers were back-to-back 3-pointers from between 20 and 25 feet by the Cougars’ Gabbie Marshall that made it 42-29 with 4:43 left.
“I have the green light to shoot those because I’ve proven the past four years that I can make them. (I shoot 3-pointers) whenever I’m feeling it,” said Marshall, a senior guard who averaged 13.7 points this season. “I knew one of them would fall, so I just kept shooting and they went in.”
Julia Hoefling had 14 points, Marshall scored 11 and Laila Phelia added 10 for the Cougars, who finished 27-2 and won their second state title in three years and seventh overall, tying Africentric and Central for the most in Ohio history.
“It was about being mentally tough,” Cougars coach Scott Rogers said. “They were going to bring the pressure and start trapping. The girls did a great job of looking over the top and then we attacked. That was huge. We didn’t back out.”
Central shot 13-for-51 (25.5 percent) from the floor, while Mount Notre Dame was an efficient 18-for-29 (62.1 percent).
“Going to a state championship and a state final is success in itself,” Hedgepeth said. “It’s just really tough to walk out seeing those seniors come up short.”