Waite girls defeated in state finalWritten by Scott Calhoun | | firstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMBUS- Junior Shanice McNeal missed the front side of a set of free throws with no time left on the clock and Waite fell by anguishing 49-47 count to Canton McKinley in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I girls state basketball championship game at Value City Arena Saturday night.
It was Waite’s first Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I state girls basketball championship appearance. Previously, the Indians (24-3) had never advanced beyond a regional semifinal prior to this season and owned one prior district championship (2006).
Sophomore Ameryst Alston scored 22 points to lead the Lady Pups to their first state crown in four trips to the DI state final four.
Senior Natasha Howard led Waite with a game-high 23 points and tied a state title game record with 14 rebounds. Howard scored 15 of her points and came through with eight steals to try and rally the Lady Indians from a 30-19 halftime deficit.
“What can you say, she’s Natasha Howard and she’s a very special player,” said coach Manny May, the DI co-Coach of the Year.
McNeal’s front-end miss with :00 on the final game clock was an ironic final twist in a game that saw the Indians shoot themselves in the foot with an 11-of-20 for 55 percent performance at the charity stripe while McKinley hardly fared better at 12-of-20 for 60 percent.
“You’ve got to make your free throws and we just didn’t get em’ down tonight,” said May. “If we make those free throws we win the game.”
The Indians were clearly nervous and rattled in the first half, turning the ball over four times in the game’s opening 1:30, and then going on to commit 12 turnovers that led to 12 points in transition for the Lady Pups, who led 30-19 at halftime.
But the Indians settled down and began taking advantage of their superior height with junior Shanice McNeal (6’2”) and Howard (6’3”) dwarfing over the Lady Pups in the paint. The duo combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds in the second half. McNeal finished the evening with a team second-best 12 points and 11 boards.
Defensively May employed his full court press in the fourth quarter and it nearly paid off. The Indians induced 14 second half turnovers out of McKinley after the Lady Pups were mostly flawless with just three first half turnovers.
A steal by senior Courtney Jackson was fed to Howard on a break with 4:04 left cut the deficit to 42-38, and then Howard engineered a steal at midcourt following a split free throw set and brought then Indians within 42-41 moments later.
Senior Miriah Haynes scored the next four points for Waite to put them in front 45-44 with 2:42 left.
Sydnee Penn (15 points) hit three of four FT inside the two minute mark while Howard scored on a beautiful move in the lane with 1:50 to go and the teams were intertwined at 47-47.
Laneisha Lennon split free throws for McKinley, and after Waite junior PG Brooke Hunt missed a would-be go-ahead trey with eight ticks to go, Alston added a point at the other end on another charity split to allegedly secure the win.
But McNeal incurred a foul after getting hacked while grabbing an inbound pass from Jackson with .09 seconds to go and the clock showed no time left. Her miss left her crushed on the hardwood as nothing else could be done. Howard had fouled out on the previous Lady Pups possession.
Waite came that close to earning the third girls basketball state title in TPS history and first since Libbey won in 1981. Woodward won in 1976.
Haynes finished with seven points and Hunt four points.
To reach the final, Waite grinded past Kettering Fairmont 61-55 in one semi while McKinley knocked off Reynoldsburg 42-39 in OT March 19.
In the semifinal victory Howard produced 22 points, four rebounds and four blocks to lead the Lady Indians (24-2), but it was her supporting cast who came through with a gritty performance in her absence while sitting down with four fouls.
“I had confidence in my teammates. They handled it real good,” Howard said.
The Lady Indians constructed a 29-22 lead in the first half as Howard tallied 11 points and swatted back three Firebirds shots and senior Courtney Jackson drilled three of five treys for nine points.
“I came out knowing I was going to let it loose (from three-point range),” said Jackson.
Fairmont generated a 9-4 run to open the second half and pulled within 33-31 at 3:50 of the third quarter, but senior Miriah Haynes and Howard combined forces to help Waite remain in front 41-36.
Howard picked up her fourth foul with a minute left in the third and had to watch from the bench until May reinserted her with three minutes left in the game. During that stretch the rest of her team nursed the advantage to 54-51.
Cassie Sant and Holley Carey kept the Firebirds flying and Fairmont closed to 56-55 with 2:17 left, but Howard scored on an inbound from Jackson (four assists) inside the final minute to seal it.
Haynes and Jackson finished with 12 points apiece for Waite.
Fairmont’s Sant paced the Lady Firebirds with a game-high 25 points.
Tags: Prep Sports