Monday, March 19th, 2007
Africentric ends New Knoxville state title bid
By Gary R. Rasberry
The New Knoxville girls basketball team stands with the state runner-up trophy a. . .
COLUMBUS - On Friday, New Knoxville coach Tim Hegemier said that Columbus Africentric could match up with any of the Division I or II teams in the state tournament.
The Nubians certainly showed they could take down a determined bunch of Rangers in Division IV.
From tip-off to final buzzer, Africentric dominated, taking a 44-27 win over New Knoxville to capture their first girls state title. The Nubians finish the season at 27-1 as the Rangers, playing in their first-ever state final four, end their campaign at 22-5.
The game broke the Division IV state record for fewest combined points with 71, breaking the 31-year old record of 72 held by Lutheran West and Frankfort Adena back in 1976.
Another record, one the Rangers would like to not have set, was one for fewest points by a team in the Division IV final. The previous record was 28, set by Holgate in the 2003 final against Marion Local.
"When you play a team like this, you have to come ready to play," said Hegemier. "You have to be able to put the ball in the hole. We shot 27.3 percent (9-of-33). That's not good enough.
"But I'm very proud of these girls. They never gave up and kept fighting out there. Just couldn't get over that one hump," added Hegemier.
Early on, the Nubians got out quick as the Rangers opened in a 3-2 zone. The speed of Africentric took its toll early as the Nubians jumped out 9-0 before the first break in action. New Knoxville missed its first 7 shots of the game and did not score until the 2:15 mark of the first quarter. After the first eight minutes, the Nubians were up 13-4 thanks to a 6-for-12 shooting quarter.
"The game plan was to come in and really apply some pressure and to maintain the pressure so we can keep the pace of the game up a bit," said Africentric coach Will McKinney, whose squad forced 20 Ranger turnovers.
The Rangers, 2-of-12 in the opening quarter, looked for a way to break through the Nubians' full-court pressure, which forced center Nicole Wright to bring the ball up the floor several times.
"The press gave us a little bit of trouble," said Hegemier. "Sometimes we were running our offensive sets from midcourt. That's not what you want to do. You want to run them from the top of the key. First quarter, quarter and a half, we had a hard time getting together as far as working together. ... Everyone has to be on time when running the flex."
New Knoxville remained in the 3-2 zone, not coming out against the Nubians. The Rangers were scoreless in the quarter until Casey Horstman sank a trey with 36 seconds left.
Hegemier said that the zone was doing its job against the Nubians.
"I really think the zone did its job," said Hegemier. "What was the score at halftime, 17-7? If I could hold Africentric to 17 points in a zone, I think it did its job. We just have to score."
Although Africentric was leading 17-7 at the half, some fans remembered their game against Ottoviille on Friday, where the Nubians led 19-8 after eight minutes and 30-18 at the half, only to see Ottoville come back, put on the pressure and get back in the game.
The big difference against Ottoville was that Africentric took off the full-court pressure in the second half. This time, the Nubians appeared to learn a lesson, keeping on the pressure to start the third quarter. The Rangers got it within single digits when Haley Kruse hit a pair of free throws 35 seconds into the half, but Africentric cranked up the pressure, pushing the lead to 23-11 and forcing Hegemier to call a timeout to regroup the troops with 5:21 to go in the quarter.
"I think today we were a little more successful with it," said McKinney of the pressure defense. "Fortunately, New Knoxville didn't get the opportunity to knock down big shots like Ottoville did yesterday. We were able to keep the pressure on.
"Another thing that helped us were those TV timeouts (breaks in the action because of the telecasts from Ohio News Network, something that did not happen on Friday). We were able to make adjustments and keep fresh legs."
Things did not get much better as the Nubians outscored the Rangers 15-5 to take a 32-12 lead going into the final quarter.
"They'll tell you, they could have played better today," said Hegemier. "I think we just got caught up in the moment and really didn't get things rolling. I'm not going to hold it against my girls.
"They gave me a dream that came true, to get to the state tournament. I never thought I'd get that. There's not too many coaches that get this dream or play in a championship game. I'm proud of that."
The Nubians were led by Ashar Harris' 11 points, earning her Outstanding Player of the Tournament honors. Teammates Chynna Bozeman and Alesia Howard joined Harris on the all-tournament team.
Haley Kruse led the Rangers with 17 points, earning a spot on the all-tourney team. Brooke Niemeyer added eight points.
The final spot on the all-tournament team went to Courtney Schimmoeller of Ottoville, who scored 14 in helping the Big Green come back to tie Africentric on Friday in the semifinals.