COLUMBUS – For the second straight season, Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown will battle for a Division II girls basketball championship.
But getting there wasn’t easy.
The Blazers led by as many as 16 points over Lima Bath in the first half in the state semifinal game but the Wildkittens clawed back in the second half to force overtime.
Lima Bath netted just two points in the extra period and HB’s Alexis Dobbs was 8-of-8 on throw attempts to lead the Blazers past the Wildkittens 68-58 at Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center to advance to Saturday’s title game at 10:45 a.m.
“We started the game out about as good as we could have hoped to,” HB head coach Paul Barlow said. “I thought we controlled the first quarter and to (Bath’s) credit, they made a great run in the second quarter.”
Dobbs finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds
“I knew we were going to go into overtime and I couldn’t let them score,” Dobbs said. “Once we went into overtime I knew as a team we had to step up and take it into our hands.
“During crunch time, I make free throws no matter what.”
HB (22-4) took a quick 10-0 lead in the game as the Blazers fed the ball into the post with ease to senior forward Angela Groves. She dropped 10 of her game high 25 points in the first quarter. Groves also pulled down 12 boards in the game.
“Going into the game we definitely felt we had an advantage going inside and she stepped up today in a big way,” said Barlow. “She had a great game inside and finished around the basket.
“Her senior leadership and her will to win today really came through.”
HB was without first team All-Ohio sophomore wing Mylan Woods for much of the first period as she suffered an apparent eye injury and scored just two points in the opening frame.
The Blazers led 29-13 with six minutes left in the half but Bath (24-2) went on a 9-0 run, including five points off turnovers, to carry the momentum into the locker room down seven.
“In hind sight, I think we should have attacked the basket more than we did in the second quarter and not try to nurse a lead,” Barlow said.
The Wildkittens continued to roll in the second half as HB found itself without Woods again. Just a minute into the third quarter, Woods picked up her fourth foul of the game and was forced to the bench.
“They called a foul and it was my fourth one. I was mad because I had to come out of the game and couldn’t help my team but our team is strong enough to go on without me and I am just glad they stepped up,” said Woods.
Bath found its rhythm – and its game plan – from beyond the arc to get back into the game. The Wildkittens tied a state semifinal game record in all Divisions with 11 three-pointers and were one short of the tournament record.
Bath hit four straight three-pointers in a span of three minutes in the fourth quarter and took a 49-48 lead with 4:49 left in regulation. That was Bath’s only lead of the game, tough, as HB took the lead several more times and the Wildkittens kept battling just to tie.
Woods went out of the game again in the fourth quarter with cramping in her left calf muscle.
With HB up 56-54 with 1:23 left in regulation, Bath tied the game on a Rachael Mauk layup.
HB took a timeout with 42 seconds left but Groves was whistled for a foul coming out of the break turning the ball over to Bath with 31 seconds left.
Coming out of a Bath timeout with 25 seconds remaining, HB’s Alanna Guy pulled down a rebound, fell hard to floor and was whistled for traveling with 2.6 second left.
Bath called a timeout on the first inbounds attempt under its own basket to set a play. On the second attempt, Nicki Hopkins inbounded the ball to Stefanie Mauk but her off-balance shot fell short as the horn blew on a 56-56 tie.
But it was all HB in overtime as the Lady Wildkittens went 0-for-9 from the floor getting just two free throws from Rachel Mauk.
“I am just very proud of the effort our kids made,” said Bath head coach Greg Mauk. “We got off to kind of a rocky start and we fought back like we always do. Our kids really competed and I am really proud of what they accomplished this year.
“Our kids really dug in, I thought, in the second half and really played some great defense.”
Rachel Mauk led Bath with 18 points and five rebounds with twin sister Stefanie registering a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Hopkins had 12 points for Bath.
“We were down and I just knew that my teammates wanted (to win) more than anything and we just came back and fought as hard as we could,” Stefanie Mauk said. “We got back in it and things just didn’t go our way in overtime.”
Woods finished with a hard-fought 17 points and six rebounds.
Hathaway Brown shot 50 percent from the floor hitting 28-of-56 attempts and outscored Bath 12-2 in overtime.
“I thought we did a great job in overtime getting ball inside and making key baskets inside and hitting free throws down the stretch to close out the game,” said Barlow.
Bath shot 32.8 percent for the game and 30.6 percent from beyond the arc.
“Experience is what you gain when you don’t get what you want and we’ve got a lot of experience coming back,” Greg Mauk said.
Bath loses just one senior, forward Alex Dackin (7 points), from this year’s team.
HB, which fell to Warsaw River View 45-26 in the Division II title game last year, will face the winner of the Kettering Alter-Columbus Mifflin game on the other side of the bracket for its first state championship in school history.
“Coming back for a second year in a row makes a huge difference,” said Groves. “As we walked on the court to warm up it didn’t seem as big and it definitely helped to have been in this situation last year.”
Dackin sunk a three-pointer as time expired on the third quarter cutting HB’s lead to 44-40.
“That shot got us going and that’s what put us back in the game. That was the icebreaker right there,” Rachel Mauk said.
The HB team and coaching staff each sported the words ‘3.8 Push’ written on the top of their hands, which was inspired by HB’s Division I state championship soccer team from last fall.
“(HB soccer coach Dennis Weyn) came to talk to us and talked about different things that they did to get the team pumped up. They had things on their hands just to keep themselves in the right mindset. Our goal is to push to March 8 to win a state championship – '3.8 Push'.”