Twinsburg was given a scare in Friday’s Division I regional final at the Canton Civic Center, but the Tigers came out on top as they have in their past 72 games against Ohio opponents with a 44-41 victory over Solon.
The Tigers (28-0) had beaten the Comets (22-5) twice this season, but the old adage about it being difficult to beat a team three times was very much true.
The game started off in typical Twinsburg fashion and the Tigers built a 30-19 lead by halftime.
However, the Comets came out of halftime with a newfound defensive intensity and held the Tigers to seven third-quarter points.
“The third quarter has been our not-so-good quarter all year,” Twinsburg coach Julie Solis said. “I think in games like this you get tight. It’s the team that can somehow prevail from the nervousness that ends up on top.”
The Comets staged a 14-3 run headed by six points from sophomore guard Jordan Bekelja to cut the Tigers’ lead to five points with under four minutes remaining in the game.
Bekelja led all scorers with 17 points and had three rebounds and a steal.
Things got worse for Twinsburg.
After an injury to senior guard Brooke Smith, Solon junior center Alexis Gray grabbed an offensive rebound before getting tangled up with Twinsburg senior center Char-dell Dunnigan.
Dunnigan was called for a personal foul on the play, her fourth. She then slammed the ball down in disgust and was called for a technical. It was her fifth foul and she had to leave the game.
Gray made two free throws. The Tigers’ lead was cut to 40-37 and two of their starters were on the bench. As the buzz from the Solon fans intensified, so did the tension from the Twinsburg bench.
Following the free throws, Tigers senior guard and Purdue recruit Ashley Morrissette made a mid-range jumper to make it a two-possession game again.
After Solon cut its deficit to 42-41, senior guard Natalie Chambers missed the back end of a one-and-one, but guard Ariaba Harper got the offensive rebound, giving Solon what would have been the go-ahead possession.
Morrissette, however, came up with a clutch steal.
“Ashley’s been doing that all year,” Solis said. “It seems like whenever somebody makes a run she steps up and does something big for us.”
After the steal, there was a loose ball and Morrissette and sophomore guard Aloneet Durden hit the floor and a foul was called on Solon.
Morrissette made the front end of the one-and-one before the officials determined it was actually the sophomore Durden that was supposed to be the shooter, not the senior leader. They nixed Morrissette’s free throw, and made Durden shoot instead.
Durden made both free throws to put the Tigers up 44-41.
“She’s such a cool kid because she’s so young and the baby of the team,” Solis said. “For her to step up with that kind of confidence is huge.”
Solon needed a 3-pointer on its final possession, but the Comets hadn’t made one all game and ended without one.
Morrissette finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four steals and a block.
Twinsburg will play Lewis Center Olentangy Orange in a state semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday. A win in that game would give the Tigers a chance to earn their third consecutive state title.
Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps.