COLUMBUS - With only 3.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of yesterday's Division IV girls state basketball tournament semifinal between Holgate and Worthington Christian, the Tigers seemed destined for defeat and despair.
With Worthington Christian leading 61-58 and Holgate needing to go the length of the court, the Tigers needed a miracle.
They got it.
Alissa Gill launched a 35-foot prayer shot that swished through the net at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
The Tigers, who had trailed by 11 in the fourth quarter, took the momentum into the extra period to pull out a 70-65 win before 7,344 fans at Value City Arena.
“I had no idea it was going in,” said Gill, who scored only five points. “I just let it go and I just hoped and prayed it went in.''
The Tigers (24-2) will face Jackson Center (26-1) in the championship at 5 p.m. today. Jackson Center stopped St. Peter Chanel 67-62 in the earlier semifinal.
Gill may not have known her game-tying 3-pointer would be good, but it wasn't the first time she made a last-second shot to end a quarter in the postseason.
It was her fifth buzzer-beating basket on the road this season.
She sank last-second shots just before halftime against Edgerton, Pettisville and Ottawa Hills. She also swished a buzzer-beater to end the first quarter against West Unity Hilltop. Yet, none looms larger or more prominent than the most recent.
“I think the kids have a lot of confidence in Alissa because they've seen her do this before,” said Holgate coach Bruce Schlosser, who didn't designate anyone specifically to take the final shot of the fourth quarter.
However, the Tigers' fate was probably going to come down to either Gill or Vanessa Rothman firing up the last shot.
Rothman - the Tigers' 5-1 sophomore who pumped in 15 of her game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter - had just nailed a 3-pointer of her own with five seconds remaining to trim Worthington Christian's lead to 60-58.
The objective was to not allow Rothman to touch the basketball. The plan actually worked perfectly.
“We didn't want her (Rothman) to get the ball, so we did what we wanted to do,” Joseph said.
Yet, the Warriors' defensive strategy couldn't have put the Tigers in any better situation to tie the score. By concentrating on Rothman, the Warriors allowed Gill to receive an inbounds pass and dribble up the court to shoot the game-tying shot.
“With them hitting two 3-pointers like that in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, it was like it was meant to be,” Joseph said.
Worthington Christian never got untracked in overtime, partly because Division IV co-player of the year Nicole Stone fouled out with one minute to play.
Stone's fifth and final foul put Jamie Thomas at the free throw line, and the 5-9 sophomore center made 1-of-2 to put Holgate ahead to stay, 66-65.
Holgate's Serena Urdiales, who accounted for 19 points and a team-best nine rebounds, had dropped a 10-foot baseline jump shot to open the overtime period.
The Tigers outscored the Warriors 9-4 in the extra period.
Stone and Walton scored 22 points apiece for the Warriors.