Central Catholic's Ashley Frazier (22) blocks a shot by Waite's Shantel Perkins, as Danielle Lewis closes in at the Division I district final at Perrysburg. Central is 21-3, while Waite ends at 15-8.
The finish of yesterday's Division I girls basketball district championship game between City League powers Waite and Central Catholic was like musical chairs.
In a duel that saw eight lead changes, it seemed inevitable the last team to make a big play before time ran out would win.
That last big play was made by Central senior guard Sharise Calhoun, whose bucket from along the left baseline with 23 seconds left held up as the game-winner in a 65-64 victory for the Fighting Irish.
"That game had everything," Central coach Steve Pfahler said, "and I think that's what a district championship should be all about. Two teams just battling all the way.
"We were fortunate to hold on at the end. We made some plays when we needed to. We're just gutty, and so is Waite. Either team would have been a great representative out of this area. We just happened to get the breaks at the right time."
City champ Central (21-3) advances to a D-I regional semifinal matchup against Lorain Admiral King at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Norwalk.
Junior forward Brianna Jones paced Central with 17 points and 18 rebounds, senior forward Katelyn Nowacki contributed 16 points and five boards, and Calhoun added 15 points.
"We just had to keep our composure and stay focused," Jones said of the chaotic finish.
Waite's Courtney Jackson, left, tries to keep Central Catholic's Sharise Calhoun from stealing the ball. Calhoun had 15 points.
"We had to execute our plays and play great defense.
"It was all about trusting each other. We had to listen to our coaches and be disciplined, and that's what we did."
The Indians were led by
6-foot-3 sophomore Natasha Howard's 22 points and 20 rebounds. Waite's lone senior, Guard Kenya Middlebrooks, was also superb in defeat with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
Waite (15-8) - which had beaten the Irish 70-57 in league play before falling 68-50 to Central in the City League final two weeks ago - looked poised to win this rubber match in the final minute.
The Indians had rallied from a 56-49 deficit to a 59-56 lead with an impressive 10-0 surge in a span of 1:48, a run that included six Irish turnovers.
Fantasia Combs' fastbreak layup with 3:47 left put the Indians up 57-56, and Middlebrooks' 18-footer from the left wing with 2:30 to go gave Waite the three-point lead.
Waite still led 64-61 after Central's Danielle Lewis hit a free throw with 57.8 seconds left.
Then disaster struck for the Indians in the final 40 seconds. A Miriah Haynes pass was intercepted by Lewis in stride near midcourt and she cruised in for a layup to make it 64-63.
Haynes then stepped on the baseline while inbounding, giving the ball back to the Irish.
"We did some careless things," Waite coach Manny May said of the closing minute.
"The bottom line is that sometimes you've got to have everybody on the same page and doing the right things.
"It was the perfect championship game. It seesawed back and forth, and both teams were battling hard for a win, and they showed it on the floor.
"Shots went in for them [late] and they didn't go in for us. That was the key point. This hasn't sunk in yet but it hurts real bad."
Calhoun's winning play was a drive along the left baseline and an acrobatic spin move for a six-foot shot on which she may have escaped a traveling violation.
"That one was scary," Calhoun said of her clutch play, "because it was like, 'You have to make it.' My teammates helped me get open on that last shot, and I just had to execute."
Central had led 19-16 after one quarter, Waite was ahead 33-30 at halftime, and the Indians took a 47-45 edge to the final quarter. A 13-2 Irish run that started with 1:10 left in the third quarter and ended on Calhoun's driving basket with 4:40 left in the game preceded Waite's 10-0 run.
Haynes missed on a 3-point try with three seconds to go, and Courtney Jackson's desperation putback attempt fell short as the final horn sounded.
"We made a couple mistakes, but overall I'm proud of this team," Middlebrooks said of her final prep game. "I'm real upset right now, but they'll go on and do better things next year, and I'll still be supporting them."
Central was 25-of-63 (39.7 percent) from the field, 14-of-24 at the line and outboarded Waite 43-41. The Indians were 27-of-69 (39.1 percent) from the field, 5-of-12 at the line, forced 26 turnovers, and committed 24.
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