Patrick Henry's Jenna Inselmann (13), Amanda Coressel (12) and Alison Meyer celebrate a big victory.
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COLUMBUS - Patrick Henry and Waynesville gave each other plenty of chances yesterday afternoon in their Division III girls state basketball semifinal at St. John Arena, combining for 50 turnovers.
But neither was able to make the most of the situation as they combined for just 20 field goals.
And despite a season-low nine field goals, Patrick Henry turned back Waynesville 41-38.
The Patriots will play for the state championship today at 5:15 against South Euclid Regina, a 72-26 winner over Ironton in yesterday's other semifinal.
"During the season, at times, we've struggled offensively," said Patrick Henry coach Rick Schwiebert, whose team was 9-of-57 (15.8 percent) from the field against Waynesville. "So we felt at the end of the ballgame if we kept it close we'd have a shot."
Jenna Inselmann, who had missed on five 3-point attempts on the day, buried a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to give Patrick Henry (25-1) a 39-38 lead after the Patriots had trailed by as many as five points during the fourth quarter.
It was only the third field goal made by the Patriots during the final period.
Inselmann, who finished with a team-best nine points along with Haley Badenhop, hit just 2 of 10 shots. Yet the 5-6 junior guard said she was completely confident about her last attempt from the top of the key.
"Right before I shot it, coach told me to keep shooting even though I hadn't been hitting," Inselmann said. "I was open and I just wanted to make it so bad."
Inselmann's basket brought the Patriots fans - dressed in red, white and blue - out of their seats.
Moments later, Amanda Coressel (eight points) ensured Patrick Henry's first appearance in a Division III title game. She capped a 10-2 Patriots' run to close out the game by swishing a pair of foul shots with five seconds remaining. That followed yet another Spartans turnover against the Patriots' fullcourt pressure.
Foul shooting was one of the few bright spots for the Patriots, and arguably the difference in the outcome. Patrick Henry sank 21 of 24 free throws while Waynesville made only 12 of 23.
"Free-throw shooting is mental," Schwiebert said. "The people that made them early in the game set the tempo for the game."
Waynesville recognized the significance of the free throws during a game in which 38 fouls were called.
"I think we could have won if we had boxed out and made our free throws," said Waynesville's Abigail Nelson, who finished with a game-high 16 points.
Waynesville coach Tim Gabbard believes the Spartans (23-4) still had chances even though they turned the ball over 29 times and were outrebounded 50-35 and made only 11 of 40 shots (27.5 percent).
"Their [defensive] pressure was OK, but we didn't hit a couple of people [with passes]. We had players open," Gabbard said.
The makings of something ugly began to materialize early for the Patriots as they trailed 9-1 at one point and 9-3 after the first period. The Patriots only made 1 of 14 shots during the period.
The Patriots started to play better in the second quarter, outscoring the Spartans 18-8 to lead 21-17 at halftime.
But the Patriots never figured out a way to pull away. In fact, a 9-1 run to open the fourth quarter by Waynesville had Patrick Henry in trouble. A pair of foul shots by Aleshia Bors capped the run and gave Waynesville a 36-31 lead with 3:27 remaining in the game.
But the Patriots never panicked.
"You've got to believe that the game is not over until it's over," Schwiebert said.
- Donald Emmons