Girls basketball: Carroll girls back at state for third straight year

Carroll junior Sarah Ochs tries to score against Badin Friday night in the Patriots' 45-41 victory in the Division II regional final at Springfield High School. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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Carroll junior Sarah Ochs tries to score against Badin Friday night in the Patriots' 45-41 victory in the Division II regional final at Springfield High School. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Patriots play in Division II state semifinals on Thursday at UD Arena

SPRINGFIELD – The Carroll girls basketball team badly wanted a third chance to win the Division II state title. Now they have it.

The Patriots survived a fourth-quarter comeback by Hamilton Badin on Friday night to win 44-41 at Springfield High School for their third straight regional title.

“I said it last year: I can’t believe I’ve had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity twice, and now I can’t believe I’ve had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity three times,” said Patriots junior guard Sarah Ochs.

The Patriots lost in the state final two years ago. Last year they were warming up for their semifinal in Columbus at the Schottenstein Center when the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s honestly such a great feeling to have this opportunity again,” said senior point guard Ava Lickliter. “I’m so grateful.”

This time the Patriots (20-4) get to play at UD Arena at 11 a.m. Friday in the semifinals against Napoleon, a 47-35 winner over Norton on Friday. Napoleon (24-1) was also supposed to play in the final four last year.

“Playing at Ohio State is cool, but playing at UD is just as cool,” Lickliter said. “It’s pretty cool playing in our hometown.”

Three years in a row to reach state is an accomplishment not many teams experience. Patriots coach Cecelia Grosselin credited her players.

“We’re just really blessed to have a good group of girls that are coachable,” she said.

Carroll’s big three scorers have started for all three regional champions, and they came through as usual. Ochs scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half. Lickliter and senior Megan Leraas scored nine apiece. Badin’s defense was keyed to stopping those three, so it was important for the Patriots that Takierra Robinson, Charlotte Ruble and Sydney Franklin combined for 14 points.

“If we wanted to win this, all five had to trust each other,” Lickliter said. “We had to be willing to make that extra pass to someone who doesn’t usually score as much. We’re really working on trying to motivate each other and trusting each other.”

Like last year when the Patriots beat Roger Bacon in the regional final, they had to beat another GCL Co-ed rival. The Patriots had beaten Badin (18-10) twice this year, once in overtime, and it wasn’t easy the third time.

Carroll led 34-22 with 7:32 left when Sydney Franklin made a nice pass inside to a wide-open Takierra Robinson. Badin answered quickly and turned to a full-court press. Ochs responded with a 3-pointer for a 37-24 lead, but the Badin press forced a few turnovers to lead the Rams back.

Carroll’s lead dwindled to 44-41 with 31 seconds left, but an Ochs free throw two seconds later was enough.

“Badin’s a really good team, they’re well-coached and they have the talent to back that coaching up,” Ochs said. “So we all just had to stay together when we’d make a mistake. I was so proud of how every time we did it was, ‘I got your back. We’re gonna stay together. We’re gonna do this. We’re gonna make it back.’”

Grosselin had use most of her timeouts in the fourth quarter when her players got trapped by two defenders with no place to pass. There were a few instances when they did commit a turnover. Still, they did enough to hang on.

“We just did what we could – one play at a time,” Grosselin said. “It goes back to that experience. This is Ava’s third trip here. She knows mistakes are going to be made, and she helps us keep everyone calm. She really is a floor general for us.”