When Fort Frye's Shawntell Parsons released the potential game-tying shot from behind the arc with just seconds left in the fourth quarter, the flight of the ball was on target and looked like three points.
It really did.
But instead of swishing, knotting the score, and sending the contest into overtime, it hit the rim, coming up just inches short.
Photo courtesy of Pam Brooker
Fort Frye’s Deidra Combs (32) attempts to block Africentric's Marley Hill’s shot during state tournament girls basketball semifinal action at Value City Arena Thursday. The Lady Cadets dropped a 43-40 decision.
"We were close, and had that one last opportunity (to tie the game)," said FFHS head basketball coach Dan Liedtke after the Lady Cadets (25-4) dropped a hard-fought 43-40 decision to defending Ohio Division III champion Africentric in a state tournament semifinal game at Value City Arena in Columbus Thursday.
"We had that shot there, and we could still be playing out there," Liedtke continued. "But that's basketball. We still almost climbed back into it. You can't ask for more than that. The girls never hung their heads, and I'm so proud of them."
Fort Frye wanted to play in Saturday's state final so badly. Sure, the Lady Cadets were overjoyed winning the regional against Johnstown and advancing to the Final 4 dance for the first time. But they were hoping to tango just a little bit longer.
"You know, the dream of getting there (to the Final 4) is so huge," Liedtke said. "You work hard for that and then you get there."
The Fort Frye boss paused.
"I've been to state tournaments before where I've watched teams playing, and you can tell they were just happy to get that far," Liedtke continued. "And they played that way.
"So I said to our girls to be one of those teams to take it a step further. The girls had a lot left in them. We felt that we could beat this team (Africentric)."
Never was that more evident than in the first quarter when Fort staked itself to a 12-4 advantage. Defensively, senior Deidra Combs and the Lady Cadets were all over the Lady Nubians standout pivot player Marley Hill, shutting her out of the points column.
Give Africentric credit, though. It rallied in the second stanza and took a 19-18 halftime lead even though Fort led for most of the period. Actually, it wasn't until Alexis Parks hit a late three that gave the Lady Nubians their first advantage of the game.
"We were down by one after having a good lead on them," Liedtke said. "Then we played extremely hard to get it going again. From there on, it was pretty much nip and tuck and a momentum battle...and it went back and forth."
In the third quarter, the Lady Cadets outpointed Africentric 15-11, and led by three going into the final eight minutes of play.
Africentric regained the advantage early in the fourth period, but then Fort got it back 35-34 on Combs' drive to the bucket at the 5:45 mark.
When Hill scored on a putback to put the Lady Nubians up a point, 36-36, the defending champs never looked back. But the Lady Cadets stayed right with them.
In the final minute of play, Africentric took a 43-37 lead, thanks to some freebies.
But Fort refused to throw to throw in the towel, and reduced the deficit to three on Morgan Liedtke's trey.
Then, after some missed Lady Nubian foul shots, the Lady Cadets still had and one last possession to extend the contest.
Unfortunately, it was not to be.
"This group was here (at the state tournament) to win it this weekend," Dan Liedtke said. "It didn't happen, but you know it's almost the same as winning when you know you gave it everything you got. That's all that matters."
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org