COLUMBUS — Sitting at the press table, moments after falling to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, 47-40, in Friday’s March 16 girls high school basketball state semifinal game at Value City Arena, Bellbrook seniors Cassidy Hofacker and Bekah Vine, along with their coach Jason Tincher, managed to still smile.
Their season had come to an end, but they collectively knew they’d left everything they could out on the Jerome Schottenstein Center’s court.
“What a great environment for girls basketball. I’m just so proud of our community at Bellbrook and the support we received. That means the world to us. Our staff and players, we just love it. What a great community we have,” Tincher said, still wearing a tired smile. “We had a tough challenge today with Gilmour. They have such great talent. Watching them on tape, we saw that they had a lot of weapons. We were definitely going to bring the effort. That’s not a question with my girls. Their attitude and effort is always there. It’s just making sure our scheme was right. I thought we battled them toe-to-toe for about the whole game.
“I’m just really proud of our girls.”
Bellbrook (20-9) held a 34-33 lead when Olivia Greathouse sank a pair of free throws with 5:29 left to play in the contest. But on Gilmour’s next possession, Annika Corcoran drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put the Lancers back out in front, 36-34.
On the Golden Eagles’ next possession, with the purple-clad Bellbrook fans screaming, and Tincher jumping up and down with excitement on the sidelines, Corcoran stepped in front of a Cassidy Hofacker pass intended for Greathouse, and raced the other way for a score and a foul. Corcoran hit the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play and Gilmour never trailed again.
Bellbrook could manage only a pair of free throws — four in all by Greathouse — the rest of the way.
Corcoran, who finished with a game-high 19 points, said she felt the momentum shift with her steal and score.
“Like coach said, it was a big shot, but I just wanted to get a defensive stop on the next play,” Corcoran said. “I was obviously very excited about getting the three, but defense was going to win the game for us. For us to be able to step up and get some energy off of that, it was really helpful.”
Corcoran shot 15 shots in the game, and 14 of them were from 3-point range. She hit five of those, but the one that put the Lancers out in front for good was the biggest. Naz Hillmon, a future Michigan Wolverine who is considered the No. 10-ranked high school center nationally by College Girls Basketball Review, was held to 11 points but finished with a tournament-record tying 19 rebounds. Four Lancer players averaged in double-figure scoring this season, but Corcoran and Hillmon were the only two to get there against the Golden Eagles.
For Bellbrook, seniors Vine and Cassidy led the way with 11 and 10 points respectively. Greathouse finished with eight points, Kayla Paul scored seven, and Brooklynn Hall finished with four points.
“I’d like to credit Bellbrook. They played a great game. Great effort. They pushed us out of some things that we normally do, and that was problematic for us for awhile until we got settled in,” Lancers coach John Curran said. “We have a resilient team. Many of these girls have been down here before, so I don’t think we panicked. We just kept pressing until we found something that worked. Fortunately we found something to work before the game ended.”
Gilmour (25-3) will take on Toledo Rogers, a 62-57 winner over New Philadelphia in Friday’s second state semifinal, at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, March 17 at the Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena.
Bellbrook loses five seniors from this season.: Vine; Hofacker; Siera Ferguson; Cassidy Bereda and Lauren Redfern. Other members of the 2017-‘18 regional champion Golden Eagles were juniors Maria Mescher, Brooke Tincher, Maren Freudenschuss, Dani Westbrock, Jade Mitlien, Nicole Cordonnier and Greathouse; and sophomores Paul, Hall and GiGi Painter.
Members of the Golden Eagles coaching staff were: Tincher and assistants Lynzee Allen, Shelby Sigman and Paul Guess. This was Bellbrook’s third trip to the state Final Four. They also were in the tournament in 1976 and 2012.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.