Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame continues to rewrite the history books.
The Cougars will play for a fourth straight Division state championship Saturday after knocking off Canton McKinley 62-51 in the semifinals.
COLUMBUS – Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame continues to rewrite the history books.
The Cougars became the first Division I girls basketball team to win three straight state champions last season and MND will attempt to win a fourth advancing to Saturday’s title game Friday night.
MND had three players score in double figures and forced 25 Canton McKinley turnovers to down the Lady Pups 62-51 in the 34th Annual State Girls Basketball Tournament at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
“The game pretty much went the way I expected it to go,” MND head coach Dante Harlan said. “We knew they were going to try and create easy baskets for ourselves through defense.
“The girls stayed together and we tried to grind it out and tried to get as many easy baskets as we could and keep pressure on (McKinley).”
Senior forward and recipient of this year’s prestigious Ms. Basketball Award Kendall Hackney led all scorers with 17 points while pulling down eight rebounds.
“They were a tough team and they were fast,” said the Southern California recruit. “We were doing our best to keep up with them. We have a very fast team as well but we didn’t want to get into a track meet so we tried to do our best to control what was going on on the court.”
Senior forward Gabby Smith, who will play her college ball at Vanderbilt, added 13 points and five steals.
Running the point, Ohio recruit Ashley Fowler netted 10 points and four steals in 31 minutes of play.
“The thing with Ashley is if I even try to (substitute her), I am going to get a little bit of an attitude,” Harlan laughed. “I trust her with the utmost respect as far as her being my floor leader.
“If Ashley isn’t showing signs of fatigue, I’m not going to take her off the court.”
In addition to the turnover ratio, MND (26-1) held a 22-5 advantage in offensive rebounding.
McKinley (22-4) battled early in the game going into the half down 33-25.
“At halftime, we talked about the turnovers and the rebounding and we were still in the ballgame only down by eight (points),” McKinley head coach Pam Davis said. “We didn’t feel like we were completely out of the ballgame and we had the capability of coming back.
“I thought my kids worked hard, play hard and executed well.”
The Lady Pups pulled within a point late in the third quarter cutting the MND lead to 39-38 on a pair of Ameryst Alston free throws.
But McKinley went 10:20 in the second half without scoring a field goal and made only three free throws in that span.
MND took advantage of the drought and pulled away clamping down on defense.
“By the fourth quarter, you could see the tide start to turn as far as momentum with our kids and we changed up some of our defensive sets and it seemed to work a little bit,” said Harlan.
Freshman guard Alston, who was a first team All-Ohio selection, paced McKinley with 16 points and six rebounds.
“We came out and it was a challenge,” she said. “If we had less turnovers, I think we could have (won) that game.”
Senior guard Shauntiva Humphries added eight points but also had six turnovers.
MND will be playing for its fifth overall basketball title, which would pull the Cougars within one of Pickerington’s record six titles.
The Cougars will take on the winner of the West Chester Lakota West-Toledo Start semifinal match up in the title game. MND defeated Lakota West in last season’s title game 69-67 at the buzzer and again earlier this season in a 49-38 affair.
“We know Lakota West and I have seen Toledo Start play once and both teams are going a tough game no matter who comes out ahead,” said Harlan.