Girls D-II state final four next for Carroll after bouncing Franklin

Julia Keller hopes to help finish what Kelley Austria-led Carroll did in the 2011 girls state basketball tournament.

“Just to make it back there, hopefully, we can win in the semifinals, go to the final and finish where they left off,” gushed Keller following a 57-43 do-over defeat of nemesis Franklin in a Division II regional final at Springfield High School on Friday night.

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Carroll’s reward is its first return to the D-II high school state final four since Austria and the Patriots were the runner-up in 2011.

Carroll (25-2) will play a state final four semifinal against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (18-9) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus. Akron SVSM advanced with a 56-46 regional final defeat of Poland Seminary at Barberton.

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The second state semi is defending D-II state champ Toledo Rogers (25-2) vs. Thornville Sheridan (25-2) at 8 p.m. Thursday. Those winners will play for the state championship at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Schott.

Just as impressive, the Patriots also earned some payback. Carroll was bounced by Franklin in last season’s marathon D-II district final 53-51 that lasted three overtimes.

“We all decided we can’t let them beat us again,” said Keller, who led Carroll with 18 points. “It was the best team to play in a regional final, especially considering last year.”

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Franklin senior standout Layne Ferrell hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring. Carroll countered by reeling off a game-deciding 17-0 run to end the first quarter.

Franklin faced a double-digit deficit from then on and couldn’t solve Carroll’s offense or defense.

“There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 team in Ohio,” Franklin coach John Rossi said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. Their guards are quick, they shoot it well and they shot extremely well.”

Carroll’s Ava Lickliter added 12 points, hitting all eight free throws and scoring eight fourth-quarter points. Allie Stefanek added 11 points.

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Ferrell closed out a celebrated Franklin career with 21 points and eight rebounds. The 6-foot-1 senior signed with the University of Akron. Jordan Rogers added eight second-half points. Franklin (22-5) had its five-game win streak snapped.

“It was hard knowing we had to play them,” Ferrell said. “They were definitely out to get us because of the district last year. They’re a really good team. They played well and they deserve it.”

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This is the second time in program history Carroll has advanced to the state final four, joining that 2011 team that beat Clyde 47-43 in the semifinals but lost the championship 54-51 to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown.

“I’m so proud of them and how hard they worked to get to this point,” Carroll coach Cecilia Grosselin said. “We’ve always told them nothing is guaranteed. You have to work for every single thing you get.”

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