It’s like a pressure cooker. It keeps building up until things happen.
In order to get into the championship game of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I Final Four, Olmsted Falls built up the pressure against the Pickerington Tigers until a 15-2 run in the final quarter turned a 6-point deficit into a 58-53 victory last Friday.
“Against a team as long and athletic as Pic Central, you need to create some transition opportunities,” Bulldog Coach Jordan Eaton said. “You can’t rely on them missing because sometimes they don't. If you can get a deflection or get a turnover that can really put them at a disadvantage. And that's what we're able to do and I think that's what I really am proud of our team. There's a lot of great offensive players but everybody likes to play defense. It's actually something that they enjoy.”
Using an inside attack, the Tigers opened a 42-34 advantage late in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs created a turnover and Mia Kalich scored on a putback at the buzzer to cut into the lead.
And then the fourth quarter run began. After giving up a basket, Olmsted Falls hot blazing hot. On three consecutive trips, Danielle Cameron hit 3-pointers. Her final one with 5:13 left gave the Bulldogs a lead they’d never give up.
“I was open,” Cameron said. “My teammates knew that I was hot at that moment. We all just play together. I was just open and when you're open we'll shoot it. We take what's given to you.”
With a 51-46 advantage, the Bulldogs went into delay mode using up about two minutes. The Tigers went almost 5:30 without scoring. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs, who were in the bonus in free throws, hit seven down the stretch to secure the victory.
Cameron hit 6 of 9 3-pointers in scoring 23 points, while Kalich had 16 points. The Tigers used the inside play of 6-1 Berry Wallace, who scored 23 points.
Point guard Paige Kohler did not have a great game shooting, hitting only 2 of 11 shots. But she also had six assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
“She likes to do the dirty work,” Eaton said. “She also clutched up at the line a little bit. It's pretty great. But we tried not to just be shooters, dribblers. We try to be complete basketball players. I think it showed tonight.”
Eaton credited his senior point guard in directing the delay.
“Until we get a shot clock in these games, we're going to shrink the clock or shrink the game a little bit when we have the lead in the fourth quarter,” Eaton said. “Especially when you got a chance to get to a state championship. She does a great job of paying attention to the sideline and executing at the same time. You have to be an elite ball handler to do that. She's certainly that. And she does a great job of listening and understanding when there's a five count on and when it's not, how to break it, how to reset it. And that's a skill that very few kids have.”
The game was the first time in which Olmsted Falls made it to the Final Four. Meanwhile, Pickerington Central had made it to the semifinal game 14 previous times, while winning seven state championships.
“Once you get to a state final, anything can really happen,” Eaton said. “I don't really think it matters how many times your school has gotten there, unless that group has been there multiple times that might play a factor. But our group of girls have been working for a very long time. In fact, all the girls that I've coached in my nine years here have worked at a championship level of effort. And they just haven't gotten this far yet. So the girls who are here now are really doing a great job of taking advantage of what they've learned from them and executing the game plan to get us there.”
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