COLUMBUS - At 5-1, Vanessa Rothman was easily the smallest player on the court yesterday when Holgate faced Shadyside in a Division IV girls basketball state semifinal.
But then, Mighty Mouse wasn't exactly a six-footer either.
Rothman hit a running 30-foot shot as time expired to save the day for Holgate. The near half-court prayer which banked off the backboard and fell through the net like a well-aimed dart gave the Tigers (21-5) a 53-50 win at Value City Arena.
``It was a heave,'' Rothman said. ``But I knew it was at least straight when I let it go, so I thought it might have a chance.''
The miracle trey ended Shadyside's chances at a second straight state title game appearance. Instead, Holgate moves on to face Marion Local (21-6) in the championship tomorrow at 11 a.m. Marion Local defeated Mansfield St. Peter 52-36.
The last-second ending was the second in as many games for Holgate, which beat Miller City 38-37 on a blocked shot in the regional final.
And, the shot mirrored one made by Alissa Gill - that one a 40-footer - two years ago in a state semifinal that forced overtime against Worthington Christian in a game Holgate went on to win.
``I'm starting to feel real old,'' coach Bruce Schlosser said.
Eleven lead changes - including four in the last two minutes - no doubt added a few gray hairs to Schlosser's head. Holgate clung to a 50-49 lead when Shadyside's Shayla Holenka (22 points) was fouled in the lane with three seconds remaining. Holenka hit her second free throw to tie the game at 50.
Then Rothman got loose.
``After the foul shot, I looked at Serena [Urdiales] and said, `Get the ball out to me as quick as you can,''' Rothman said. ``I thought I might be able to get to the 3-point line.''
The late-game heroics somewhat overshadowed an impressive defensive effort for Holgate. Shadyside's Jenna Johnson, who was a Division IV co-player of the year with Rothman, was held to 11 points .
Shadyside (23-4) turned to the spread offense midway through the fourth quarter and while the move limited Holgate to four possessions in the final four minutes, it did not catch the Tigers' defense sleeping.
``We had scouted them and seen the spread, or the four-corners, late in the game,'' Schlosser said. ``We went to a zone and were able to at least create some discomfort for them.''
Shadyside led at halftime 29-23 when Holenka hit a buzzer-beater of her own to end the second quarter. Holenka finished with 22 points to lead Shadyside.
``Playing in the half court isn't typically our stregnth,'' Schlosser said. ``Offensively, I liked the quicker pace, but defensively, we couldn't keep up.''
Shadyside coach Jim Miller refused to take part in the postgame press conference.
Tomorrow will mark Holgate's third appearance in the title game. Two years ago, the Tigers lost 53-47 to Jackson Center.
``I was here two years ago and I never thought I'd get here again,” said Urdiales.
MARION LOCAL 52
MANSFIELD ST. PETER 36
Erin Puthoff scored 18 points and Maria Moeller added 15 for Maria Stein Marion Local in a Division IV semifinal.
Diana Reindl, one of three players to share state player of the year honors, led St. Peter (24-2) with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
SOUTH EUCLID REGINA 58,
NORTH COLLEGE HILL 41
Simone Redd, a first-team All-Ohioan, scored 14 points and controlled the game as South Euclid Regina (20-5) moved one step closer to an unprecedented fourth consecutive state title.
HUNTINGTON 55, BUCYRUS WYNFORD 50
The Royals (26-1) lost their chance to be the lone unbeaten girls team in the state because they shot 1-for-11 on free throws, were 23-for-58 from the field and never worked at getting the ball inside.
Nicole DePugh scored 28 points, had 18 rebounds and dominated the low post for Chillicothe Huntington (22-5).