COLUMBUS - It looked for three quarters like the Fort Frye High girls' basketball team was on its way to the Division III state championship.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
The Lady Cadets (25-4) held a 33-30 lead over Africentric (21-5) going into the final stanza Thursday at Value City Arena, but the Nubians outscored Fort Frye 13-7 in the last eight minutes to escape with a 43-40 victory.
Photo courtesy of Pam Brooker
Fort Frye’s Morgan Liedtke, right, drives to the basket against an Africentric defender during state tournament girls basketball semifinal action at Value City Arena Thursday. The Lady Cadets dropped a 43-40 decision.
Photo courtesy of Pam Brooker
Fort Frye’s Taylor Buchanan, right, gets tied up by Africentric’s Darianne Seward (4) during state tournament girls basketball semifinal action at Value City Arena Thursday. The Lady Cadets dropped a 43-40 decision.
Kyra Jones and Dayunna Johnson each hit jumpers for Africentric to take a 34-33 lead early in the fourth quarter. Fort Frye senior Deidra Combs answered with a layup to give the advantage back to the Cadets.
The University of Cincinnati-bound Marley Hill rebounded an Africentric miss and put it back in to retake the lead for the Nubians before junior Brooke Borich made a pair of free throws for Fort Frye, making the score 37-36 in favor of Dan Liedtke's squad.
Africentric then used a 7-0 run to take a 43-37 lead with just 31 seconds left in the contest. With the Cadets needing a 3-pointer in the worst way, senior Morgan Liedtke delivered just that, via an assist from junior Shawntell Parsons, to cut it to a three-point game with 18 seconds remaining.
AFRICENTRIC 43, FORT FRYE 40
Division III state semifinal
At Value City Arena
Fort Frye 12 6 15 7 - 40
Africentric 4 15 11 13 - 43
FORT FRYE (25-4)
Shawntell Parsons 0 0-0 0, Brooke Borich 2 2-2 8, Micayla Hupp 2 0-0 4, Morgan Liedtke 2 2-2 8, Taylor Buchanan 2 4-6 8, Deidra Combs 5 2-2 12, Megan Liedtke 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 10-12 40.
Darianne Seward 1 1-2 3, Alexis Parks 4 0-1 9, Ayrielle Stith 0 0-0 0, Sierra Harley 4 0-0 8, Marley Hill 5 1-2 11, Kyra Jones 1 3-4 5, Dayunna Johnson 2 2-4 7, Dejanique Franks 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 7-13 43.
Fort Frye: Shooting: 13-34 (38 percent); 3-point goals: 4 (Morgan Liedtke 2, Brooke Borich 2); Rebounds: 24 (Combs 9); Assists: 7 (Parsons 2, Buchanan 2); Steals: 3 (Combs 2); Turnovers: 15.
Africentric: Shooting: 17-44 (39 percent); 3-point goals: 2 (Parks 1, Johnson 1); Rebounds: 27 (Hill 12); Assists: 6 (Seward 2); Steals: 5; Turnovers: 11.
Next game: Africentric vs. Anna (State final) Saturday
Fort Frye immediately fouled Johnson on the inbound play, putting Africentric in the double-bonus. Johnson, who moments earlier drained a pair from the line, needed to sink just one to make it a two possession game. However, the Nubian sophomore had both freebies rim out, giving the Cadets life.
In the final seconds, Fort Frye was able to get a good look from beyond the arc, but the shot attempt fell just short, securing the win for Will McKinney's team.
"I'm proud of the athletes for being able to pull it together," McKinney said. "At the end of the day, when you get to this point in time, it's just gonna boil down to which girls can come together in certain moments. That's gonna pretty much dictate the outcome of the game."
Combs led all scorers with 12 points, and also paced the Cadets with nine rebounds. Borich, Buchanan and Morgan Liedtke all finished with eight points, with senior Micayla Hupp rounding out Fort Frye's scoring with four.
Hill posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 boards to lead the Nubians. Alexis Parks and Sierra Harley chipped in with nine and eight points, respectively.
If the Lady Cadets were feeling any nerves or after-taste from last season's regional loss to the Nubians, they hardly showed it.
Morgan Liedtke and Borich each hit 3-pointers, while Buchanan hit a pair of foul shots and Hupp made a basket to give the Fort a 12-4 lead at the end of the opening period.
Africentric opened the second quarter on a 7-2 run to cut it to a three-point game. Jumpers by Buchanan and Combs stretched it back to a five-point lead, but Johnson and Parks each hit a trey in the final minutes of the half to give the Nubians their first lead of the game at 19-18 going into the break.
Hill began the third quarter by sinking a basket, but Combs and Hupp each put one through the hoop, followed by a Buchanan free throw, to put the score back in Fort Frye's favor at 23-21.
The Nubians then scored six of the next eight points to go back on top by three, but two freebies by Morgan Liedtke and a triple from Borich put the Cadets up 29-27.
After Jones made a free throw, Combs and Parks traded layups before Buchanan knocked down a mid-range shot to make it 33-30 after three quarters.
"I'm so proud of these girls," Dan Liedtke said. "We were down by one coming in (to the second half) after having a good lead, but we came out and we just played extremely hard to get ourselves going again.
"These girls never hung their head. They just did what I told them they had to do in order to be able to beat this team. I couldn't be any more proud of them."
Both teams hurt themselves in the turnover department, with Fort Frye committing 15 to Africentric's 11.
"I think the thing that probably hurt us more than anything was really just some of those turnovers we had," Dan Liedtke said. "It really wasn't forced by (Africentric). We were traveling with the ball. Those are times where you don't get an attempt to even shoot the ball. So those hurt."
The Nubians also held a 27-24 edge in rebounding.
The two squads were very evenly-matched from the floor, with the Cadets shooting 13-for-34 (38 percent) compared to 17-for-44 (39 percent) for Africentric.
The Nubians will now face off against Anna High in the state championship on Saturday.
For the Cadets, a history-making 2012-13 campaign has come to an end. Playing the final game of their illustrious high school basketball careers were seniors Combs, Buchanan, Morgan Liedtke and Hupp.
"We're definitely proud of what we accomplished," Morgan Liedtke said. "We worked really hard to get where we are."
"We definitely gave it everything we had," Buchanan said.
"Everyone stepped up on the floor tonight and gave it their all," Combs added. "We don't have any regrets."