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Sunday, March 16, 2014 8:08 PM


Associated Press


COLUMBUS— Seldom is a girls team as quick as Columbus Africentric also so careful with the basketball.

The Nubians paired a lethal trapping defense with the ability to hold onto the ball for good shots to beat Versailles, 49-37, on Saturday night in the Division III state championship game.

“We practice a lot of just holding onto the basketball for two minutes,” said Africentric coach Will McKinney. “A lot of teams don’t realize what a weapon that can be when you have the ability to keep the ball away from the other team for two minutes. If you can do that in a game, whatever kind of lead you have you can kind of expand on it.”

That’s exactly what the Nubians did.

Sierra Harley had 14 points off the bench and Alexa Hart set the tone with six blocked shots in the first seven minutes as the Nubians (27-2), who lost in the title game last year after winning it in 2012, captured their fourth title. They became just the eighth school to have won at least four state championships.

Staked to an early lead, they never let go.

The imposing presence of the 6-2 Hart, a first-team Associated Press All-Ohioan, helped Africentric grab an early double-digit lead. After Hart left with foul trouble, the Nubians were content to patiently work for baskets while continuing with their high-pressure defense.

Guard Alexis Park had 12 points.

Ahead by nine at the half, the Nubians pulled away by badgering the ball-handler at one end and then playing unselfish, spread-the-court at the other.

“We dug ourselves a pretty big hole and it’s hard to come back on a team that can handle the pressure like they can. They really took it to us (with) their defense,” said Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker. “They were quicker than we were. We couldn’t adjust to that very well.”

She added, “They are very patient, especially when they lost both of their (big girls to foul trouble) in the first half.”

The teams traded points in the third quarter until Africentric held Versailles scoreless for almost 6 minutes in a mini 6-0 run. The Nubians were content to patiently work the ball around, passing and cutting while awaiting someone to slash to the basket or find an open seam.

Late in the game, up by 10, the Nubians’ quick guards just played keep-away as they were chased by the trapping Tigers.

Second-team All-Ohioan Christa Puthoff and Emily Harman both had nine points for ninth-ranked Versailles.

Versailles was seeking its second state championship, after winning the biggest trophy in 2008. This was the Tigers’ sixth trip to the state final four.


Kelsey Mitchell saved the best for last.

The Associated Press Ms. Basketball — and future Ohio State player — scored 30 points and Carlie Pogue added 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead top-ranked Cincinnati Princeton to its second big-school championship with a 61-55 victory over North Canton Hoover on Saturday night.

Princeton (28-2) improved to 2-for-2 in the state tournament, also winning the title in its only other appearance in 1987.

Mitchell scored 15 points in the first quarter and then became less of an offensive force as her team never trailed after she fueled a 9-2 start. She also had four rebounds and three assists and three steals.

With Mitchell leading the way, Princeton led 19-13 after a quarter and maintained it for most of the way.

Down as many as 14, Hoover (26-3) cut the lead to four with 17 seconds left.

But then Mitchell was fouled on the inbounds pass and, of course, hit both shots to end the drama.


Reedsville Eastern was hanging on and Jenna Burdette knew she had to make a difference.

She did more than that. She took over the game.

Burdette scored 20 of her 24 points in the second half — accounting for all but seven of her team’s points over that span — to carry top-ranked Eastern past No. 3 Zanesville Rosecrans 49-38 in the Division IV girls state title game on Saturday.

Burdette, an Associated Press first-team All-Ohioan and co-player of the year in the division, time and again made big shots and big plays as Eastern (27-1) got redemption for a semifinal loss a year ago in the school’s only previous appearance at the state tournament.

Over the first 14:59 of the second half, Burdette scored 20 of the Eagles’ 22 points. She scored her team’s first five points of the third quarter before teammate Jordan Parker hit a rebound follow at the 3:36 mark to cap a 7-0 run that swelled the lead to 29-16.

Burdette then scored all of her team’s points until Parker hit two foul shots with 1:01 remaining to push the lead to 46-38.

None were bigger than four midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bishops (27-2) pulled within 39-37 on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Kloie Johnson at the 4:27 mark.

Burdette then drove to the basket and was fouled, hitting both shots.

After a Rosecrans miss, Burdette went to the hoop again, trying to draw a foul. Instead, in heavy traffic, she muscled her way through the paint and banked in a shot to make it 43-37.

Burdette hit one more foul shot and then made way for her teammates. Parker, Katie Keller and Maddie Rigsby hit five of six free throws over the final 61 seconds to hold off the Bishops.

Molly Nash had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Bishops, who were shooting for their fourth state championship but first since 1992.


It’s hard to beat experience — particularly experience in the brightest of spotlights.

Millersburg West Holmes, one of the most historic girls’ basketball programs in Ohio, proved that again on Saturday at Value City Arena.

Paiten Strother scored 18 points and Emily Molnar 15 to lead top-ranked West Holmes back from a poor start to a 62-45 victory over No. 2 Kettering Alter in the Division II girls’ state championship game.

The Lady Knights made trips to the state each of the last three years, including losses in the final the last two.

The title was the fourth for West Holmes (29-0) but first since its unapproached and unprecedented 108-game winning streak that included the three previous titles in 1984-86.

Alter (29-1) led 7-0 almost 4 minutes into the game but behind Strother and Molnar, West Holmes scored 23 of the next 27 points and was never headed.

Libby Bazelak had 16 points for Alter, which hadn’t really been tested all season — winning by at least 12 points in every game until a 50-47 win in the semis against Toledo Rogers. Alter started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior.

West Holmes’ first team Associated Press All-Ohioan and co-player of the year in the division Laina Snyder was held to just eight points — only two through three quarters — but did grab 11 rebounds.


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