PICKERINGTON, Ohio - Tonight’s matchup highlighted the No. 3 and No. 5 Division I teams in the state in Newark and Pickerington Central. This game was also a rematch of last year’s regional final in which the Wildcats got the best out of the Tigers in an unreal atmosphere at Otterbein before COVID-19 rocked the nation.
Newark remained victorious over the Tigers in the rematch to close out the opening weekend of OCC play, shutting down Central in crunch time to come away with a 41-34 win.
Heading into the game, expectations were high surrounding offensive output due to the caliber of talent present. Newark touts West Virginia commit Emma Shumate, Charleston commit Peyton Lunsford and Ursiline commit Madyson Stottsberry. Pickerington Central brings Purdue commit Skye Williams and Bowling Green commit Jocelyn Tate.
Despite all of the offensive firepower, defense took center stage. Both teams played an intense man to man defense causing numerous turnovers. A total team defensive effort by the Wildcats held Skye William and Jocelyn Tate to a combined seven points, which proved to be too much to overcome for the Tigers.
A major swing of momentum occurred at the end of the third quarter when Pickerington Central looked to take the lead on a Tate steal. A five-point swing happened when Tate's layup attempt was swatted by Shumate in transition, leading to a big three from Peyton Lunsford, which put Newark ahead 25-21.
In the fourth, Pickerington Central took a momentary lead on a tough Tate drive which gave the Tigers a 31-30 advantage with 3:32 remaining.
Newark responded with a 7-0 run from Shumate and Gwen Stare, who scored five-straight on back to back possessions, giving the Wildcats a 37-31 lead with just under two minutes remaining.
Pickerington Central had one field goal in the final 3:32, a three-point make from Williams, her only points of the game, as Newark shut the door on the Tigers in crunch time.
Newark remained perfect by taking down Pickerington Central by a final score of 41-34. The consistent pressure and discipline from the Wildcats was impressive and will take them on a long run into the postseason.
Newark featured a balanced scoring attack: Emma Shumate leading with 12; Gwen Stare, Madyson Stottsberry, and Maddie Vejsicky with eight each; and Peyton Lunsford with five. Pickerington Central was led by Berry Wallace with 11 and Madison Greene and Olivia Cooper with six each.
Let's take a look at some of tonight’s top performers.
Emma Shumate (6’1 G / Newark / 2021) - Emma Shumate is the best basketball player in Central Ohio. Her basketball IQ and high motor make her tough to beat. She is a double double machine, can score it any way she wants, and is an elite passer. She is an elite COMPETITOR and, most importantly, TEAMMATE. Shumate sets the tone with her effort, communication and IQ, always putting her team in positions to win. She took the game over in crunch time, coming up with important buckets, stops and hustle plays that led the Wildcats to the win. While ranked No. 54 in the nation by ESPN, you'd be hard-pressed to find 53 other girls in the country who impact the game at a higher level than Shumate.
Berry Wallace (6’2 F / Pickerington Central / 2024) - Wallace had a huge impact for the Tigers in the first half tonight. She passed the ball well and scored efficiently. She is long and athletic and scores best from midrange and in. At times, she impacted Newark’s shot selection and had active hands defensively. The freshman has an advanced offensive game and was able to score around the rim whenever she wanted. The younger sister of Northwestern football signee and overall wonderful athlete Garner Wallace, who ironically dates Shumate, Berry Wallace had a great showing against one of the best players in the nation which only means great things for her going forward. The Tigers have another young star in Wallace.
Gwen Stare (5’8 PG / Newark / 2022) - Stare is a great floor general for the Wildcats. She handled the ball confidently even when pressured and controlled the tempo well. Gwen attacked the basket with purpose but struggled at times to finish on the left side with contact. She has a high basketball IQ and makes great decisions with the ball. She rattled off five straight points in the fourth to give Newark the lead for good in the fourth quarter, while coming up with a handful of 50/50 balls in the second half. The junior plays with great confidence and poise and gives Newark yet another trusted ball handler and offensive threat that can take a game over in crunch time.
Madison Greene (5’6 PG / Pickerington Central / 2023) - Just a sophomore, Greene played with great poise as the primary ball handler for the Tigers. She shot well from three, giving Pickerington Central a much needed boost on offense. Her defensive tenacity and high motor are what stood out most to us. Greene is a physical point of attack defender that makes opposing ball handlers uncomfortable with her speed, quickness and strength. If you don't have a reliable ball handler, Greene is a straight up game wrecker with the impact that she provides on the defensive end of the floor. She will play a big part for the Tigers in years to come.
Olivia Cooper (6'1 PF / Pickerington Central / 2023): Cooper is one of few sophomores in the area with Division I offers. The 6-foot-1 forward is a low post offensive threat that gave Pickerington Central valuable scoring in a game where that was hard to come by. Her length gives her an advantage against undersized guards and forwards but her athleticism is tough for her size. Tonight she finished well through contact. With a little polishing, Cooper will be tough for Pickerington Central for the next three years.
Peyton Lunsford (5’7 PG / Newark / 2021) - By just watching Lunsford, you can see that she has some major big game experience under her belt. She aided the Wildcats in a huge way on Saturday, knocking down two big threes, attacking the rim with aggression and playing excellent defense, both in the half court and in transition. When Newark needed a big hustle play, Lunsford delivered. That type of play is why Charleston is lucky to have Lunsford as a commitment in their incoming recruiting class.
Madyson Stottsberry (5’7 G / Newark / 2021) - Stottsberry is a tough nosed, hard-working guard. She is a pesky defender who makes important hustle plays that lead to easy buckets for the Wildcats. She is almost always in the right spot at the right time to make big plays. She scored six of Newark’s first eight points, all from the three point line. She is an outstanding offensive rebounder and outworks most guards because she is incredibly competitive. There is a reason Coach Sword and Ursuline had to have her.
Maddie Vejsicky (6’0 G / Newark / 2022) - One of the Wildcats’ best perimeter shooters, Vejsicky could not be left alone on Saturday. Going for eight points, Vejsicky seemed to deliver when it was most needed in a tight win for Newark. The 6-foot guard has intriguing size and versatility on both ends of the floor and provided key contribution in terms of three-point shooting in a game where that was hard to find. With quality contributors like Vejsicky on the roster, Newark is a threat to roar back to the state tournament once again.