After watching its 12-point third quarter lead whittled to six, Carroll turned to an unlikely option on the state’s grandest stage – freshman Sarah Ochs.
Drilling a three-pointer on the Patriots’ ensuing possession, Ochs’ shot spurred an 11-0 third-quarter closing run that propelled the Patriots to a 45-28 lead and eventual 57-38 win over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in Thursday’s Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II girls basketball state semifinal at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Ochs finished the game with a career-, game- and team-high 14 points in 17 minutes. She was 4-for-4 from the field (2-for-2 from 3) and 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
As a team Carroll was 4-for-4 from 3 in the third quarter. The Patriots shot 55 percent from the floor in the second half (8-of-15).
“We are so blessed to have Sarah,” Carroll head coach Cecilia Grosselin said. “She’s a freshman but she fits right in. I can put her in anywhere and she is definitely our go-to person if one of our regular starters is in trouble. She’s great in any position.”
Said Ochs: “I just wanted to do whatever the team needed. This is what we needed.”
The Patriots, playing in their second state tournament, advance to the program’s second state final. Carroll (26-2) will play defending state champ Toledo Rogers (26-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday. Led by South Carolina recruit Zia Cooke’s 37 points, Rogers beat Thornville Sheridan 56-48 in Thursday’s second semifinal.
Carroll was the D-II state runner-up in 2011.
SVSM, which started the season 2-5 and featured the program’s largest senior class ever (eight), finishes 18-10.
The Patriots third-quarter run was reminiscent of their 17-0 first quarter regional final run that buried Franklin.
“We don’t let a lead enter our minds,” Carroll junior Allie Stefanek said. “We just keep pushing.”
Physical play in the post was critical.
SVSM, boasting four players 6-foot or taller, had outrebounded its opponents decisively in the tournament. Carroll eradicated that advantage.
Despite just one player taller than 5-10, the Patriots outrebounded the Irish 32-24.
“We knew (rebounding) would be the key,” Carroll junior Julia Keller, the team’s tallest player at 6-foot, said. “They are definitely a post-dominated team. This week we stressed boxing out.”
“They had a really good gameplan of packing it in,” SVSM’s 6-3 post Aubrie Marsh said. “We didn’t crash the boards as much as we could have. They did a great job boxing us out.”
Stefanek had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Keller chipped in 12 points and five boards.
“They shot better than I thought they could and I knew they were good shooters,” SVSM head coach Carley Whitney said. “(Carroll) was very steady. We’d chip the lead down and boom they’d hit a 3. Their timing was impeccable.”
Carroll’s appearance in the state final marks the fifth time in six seasons the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North Division will have a team playing for the D-II title. Alter was state runner-up in 2014 and state champions in 2015-17. Chaminde Julienne reached the D-II state semis in 2013.