The 33rd Annual Girls Basketball State Tournament couldn’t have ended in better fashion.
Tied 67-67 In the Division I state championship game at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center, Mount Notre Dame freshman Kathryn Reynolds sunk a lay-up as time expired to down West Chester Lakota West and to give the Cougars their third straight title and fourth in five years.
COLUMBUS – It is a shot every high school basketball player dreams of making – a buzzer-beater to win a state championship.
That dream came true for Mount Notre Dame freshman Kathryn Reynolds Monday as she laid in a bucket at the horn giving the Cougars a 69-67 win over West Chester Lakota West and a third straight Division I state championship at Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center.
MND’s three consecutive titles are a Division I record and it is the Cougars’ fourth championship in five years.
“I was thinking about (pulling up for a jumper) but I could miss that and a lay-up is more of a shot you can make so I went for the easy shot,” Reynolds said. “It just went in and I couldn’t even believe it.”
“I saw her look up at the clock and I believed that she was going to get it off,” MND head coach Dante Harlan said. “I just had my fingers crossed and I am in disbelief right now.
“That was probably the best girls game I’ve ever seen.”
Knotted at 67 following a Lakota West timeout and with 11 seconds left in the game, Firebirds guard Quinessa Johnson tried to feed the ball into the post to Tessa Elkins but MND’s Gabby Smith knocked the ball away and Cougars forward Tia McBride came up with it.
McBride pushed it out to guard Ashley Fowler who found a breaking Reynolds – and as they say – the rest is history.
The thrilling finish wasn’t without a bit of controversy, though, as it appeared Reynolds may not have gotten the shot off before the end of regulation. But the official at center court signaled that the basket counted and the call stood with no video review allowed in high school basketball.
“It’s so close, it’s humanly impossible to tell,” Ohio High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner Hank Zaborniak said. “It was a well-officiated game. The shot stands as good.”
In an up-tempo, fast-paced game, MND jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead as the opening frame saw three ties and four lead changes.
MND went in to the half clinging to a 29-28 lead and led 54-48 after three quarters.
McBride scored 14 of her team high 24 points in the third quarter.
“I had to stick up for my team,” McBride said. “They scored for me and I felt like I had to score for them in the second half. It was a matter of stepping up. I didn’t think about it, it just happened”
“At halftime, Tia was frustrated,” said Harlan. “She was mad because those were shots in the first quarter that she makes. When she hit one, I knew it was her time.”
With less than two minutes left, MND led 65-59 but Lakota West’ Alexis Rogers ripped off eight straight points, including two late free throws, to put the Firebirds up 67-65.
McBride then tied the game on a lay up with less than 30 seconds left to set up MND’s late-game heroics.
MND ended Lakota West’s season last year in the regional finals but the Firebirds played in the Columbus bracket in the postseason this year setting up the Division I final between the two Cincinnati powers.
MND (26-2) avenged a 61-55 season-opening loss to Lakota West (26-2) with the state championship victory.
“(Lakota West) is a great team and I hope everybody gives them credit,” Harlan said.
It was the first state final four appearance for Lakota West.
“I hope (my players) take pride in the fact they made it to the final four, won a final four semifinal game and played for a state championship,” Lakota West head coach Andy Fishman said.
“We were a little unlucky tonight that we did not come out on top.”
“I thought we were heading to overtime. We had the ball on the final possession, we had an opportunity and things kind of broke down for us and we were unlucky.”
Smith tallied 14 points for MND with Fowler adding eight. Reynolds netted seven.
Rogers had a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
All-American forward and Tennessee recruit Amber Gray also double-doubled with 23 points and 11 rebounds but failed to score in the fourth quarter.
Gray was named the 2008 Ms. Basketball award winner last week.
Lakota West’s only other loss this season was to Division III state semifinalist South Euclid Regina.
That Regina program holds the OHSAA overall record with four straight state championships (2000-2003).