COLUMBUS – Convoy Crestview passed every test except the most important one Thursday against Columbus Africentric in a Division IV girls basketball state semifinal at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
– Compete with Africentric on the glass: Check.
– Sustain composure and cut down on turnovers against the Nubians press: Check.
– Keep the game close and give yourself a chance to win in the final minute: Check
– Snag the victory: Negative.
Despite leading at halftime and having possession of the ball down two points with less than 24 seconds to go, Crestview fell short in its bid to unseat Ohio’s No. 1 ranked D-IV squad and defending state champion Africentric. The Nubians hit enough free throws, made enough plays and grabbed just enough rebounds to secure a 47-42 win and spot in Saturday’s state final against Berlin Hiland (game time is 2 p.m.).
“Our goal was to keep it close at the end and have a chance to make a play at the end and win,” Crestview head coach Greg Rickard said. “We had the ball down three with 30 seconds to go so I thought we did a great job to position ourselves there. I was pleased with our defense. We were worried about their offensive rebounds and we did a good job with that. I don’t know if you’re going to keep them off the glass the whole game, they’re pretty athletic, but I thought for the most part we did a good job rebounding. I thought we handled their pressure pretty well and got a lot of good looks. Everything we were looking to do we accomplished. That’s probably why it was a close game at the end.”
Oh so close.
And nearly too close for Africentric.
Ohio’s unanimous No. 1 all season long, the Nubians entered the contest averaging 77 points per game and had scored less then 60 just three times this season. Seniors Tyesha Moss, the state’s D-IV player of the year, and Alesia Howard are headed to Xavier and UMass, respectively. The other three starters, including freshman standout and O.J. Mayo’s cousin Raven Fergusen, will play D-I ball someday. It still almost wasn’t enough.
Intensity has a funny way of keeping teams in games and Thursday that’s what it did for Crestview.
Making their third appearance at the state tournament, but first since 1985, the Knights showed no signs of backing down once the tip was tossed.
“I thought that Crestview did a fantastic job of handling our pressure,” Africentric coach Will McKinney said. “We didn’t get many points off of turnovers and their intensity was a lot better than ours in the first half. That’s why the game ended up the way it was – their effort and level of intensity and how they took care of the ball.”
After all was said and done though, it was the Nubians who took care of business.
Africentric took the lead, 26-24, on a pair of Howard free throws at the 4:36 mark of the third quarter. The Nubians never trailed again although they had chances to fold.
Relatively untested all season, minus its lone loss to Chicago’s Whitney Young, Africentric never had a lead larger than seven. Three times in the final three minutes the Knights trimmed the deficit to three or less.
“Down the stretch the girls showed a lot of poise when the game got tight which was good for us,” McKinney said. “It’s not so bad to have a game of this magnitude before you head into the state championship game.”
Howard and Moss tied for game-high honors with 14 points each, while junior Ashar Harris chipped in 11. Harris also logged arguably the game’s biggest play when she grabbed the rebound of an Africentric free throw miss with six seconds left. Harris nailed the ensuing free throws to punch the Nubians ticket.
Just seconds before the Knights had life.
Down 44-42 with 24 seconds left, Crestview sophomore Jo Thompson rebounded a missed Africentric free throw attempt and raced to the other end of the floor where she got a good look. The shot didn’t fall. Instead, the Knights did.
Kelsey Nedderman led Crestview with 12 points, while Carly Lichtensteiger added 11.
“We thought (Jo would) be able to create a good look,” Rickard said. “We had numbers there. She did get a good look and we even had a chance at a rebound there and I think we fought over it with each other. I thought about a timeout, but we had the numbers, the advantage and we had a good look.
“It just didn’t go.”