SPRINGFIELD — Good teams manage to stick together when the going gets rough. Friday night, the Carroll Patriots girls high school basketball team banded together enough to earn their second consecutive trip to the state Final Four.
Carroll fended off a solid St. Bernard Roger Bacon rally to claim a 41-38 win in the Division II regional title game, Friday, March 6 at Springfield High School.
The Patriots (23-5) led by 10 points (27-17) at halftime, and held on to a seven-point lead to start the final quarter of play. Roger Bacon began the final eight minutes with a 7-2 run that pulled the Spartans to within two points of the Patriots, 35-33, with 4:07 yet to go, but Carroll never gave up the lead.
With 1:22 left in the contest, Bacon’s Kylee Shepherd grabbed a steal and had raced the length of the court with a chance to tie the game at 37-all, but Carroll senior Allie Stefanek blocked Shepherd’s try from behind and fellow Carroll senior Julia Keller came up with the rebound.
A pair of free throws from sophomore guard Sarah Ochs with 40.5 seconds left gave Carroll a four-point lead at 39-35, but a 3-pointer from off the left wing from the Spartans Kelly Brenner pulled Roger Bacon back to within two points (40-38) with 1.7 seconds left to play.
On Carroll’s last possession, Keller was fouled with 0.2 seconds remaining. She hit the second of two double-bonus free throw tries for the game’s final margin. The Patriots players celebrated with joyful hugs, while some of the Roger Bacon players walked off the court in despair, their heads covered in their jerseys.
“We’re just so incredibly blessed to have great girls on the team, a great coaching staff, and we’re just excited to be going back to state,” Carroll coach Cecilia Grosselin said, moments after cutting down the net. “Every year, that is our goal for the season. We didn’t start off so great with some early losses this year, but right now I feel that we’ve blossomed and we’re really coming together as a team.”
Patriots wins truly are a team effort. In the regional semis, it was Keller leading the scoring with 21 points, and Allie Stefanek scoring a season-high 18. This time around, sophomore guard Sarah Ochs nearly scored half the Patriots points with 20, with Keller, Ava Lickliter and Stefanek each scoring six, and Megan Leraas scoring three.
Brenner led Roger Bacon (20-8) with 12 points, all threes.
Ochs said the win was truly a team effort, especially in that final quarter.
“It was just a lot of teamwork, and working together. We knew we had to stay together through all the ups and downs,” Ochs said. “Coach told us that there’d be plenty of the ups and downs, and we just had to stay together. … This is amazing! I can’t believe that we’ve gotten this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity two years in a row.”
Last season, Carroll reached the Division II title game, before losing to Toledo Rogers.
This season, the Patriots will begin Final Four play against the winner between state No. 7-ranked Beloit West Branch (23-3) and state No. 6 Shaker Heights Laurel (22-6). That State Semifinal contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 12 at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena, in Columbus.
While a score in the Regional final between No. 3 Napoleon (26-0) and unranked Willard (22-4) wasn’t available at presstime, the top-ranked D-II team in Ohio, Circleville, lost in the regional final to No. 8 Dresden Tri-Valley, 45-43 in overtime.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.