LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Africentric overcame a 10 point first half deficit to force overtime and earned a trip to the Division III regional final in a 54-50 victory over Willard.
Despite both teams normally playing a fast paced game, the first quarter was off to a slow start. Mckenna Stephens kicked off the game with three straight points for the Flashes but Aniyah Murphy and Maliyah Johnson kept things close for the Nubians. Willard left the first quarter with a four point lead by a score of 10-6.
Defense continued to be the name of the game in the second but Willard outscored Africentric 9-8. Layla Dials scored four in the quarter and Johnson added three to her already stellar night.
The Flashes extended their lead to 10 points in the middle of the second thanks to a Kalli Sowers three pointer. Lyric Ransom and Johnson scored five points for Africentric to cut the lead and head into halftime down 19-14.
Both teams came alive in the third quarter by limiting turnovers, knocking down tough shots and getting to the free throw line. The Flashes and Nubians combined for 35 in the third but Willard maintained at least a two point lead for the entire quarter.
Johnson continued her domination, scoring seven in the quarter and Murphy started to control the guard position, hitting for six. Willard maintained a 35-33 lead with one quarter remaining.
With just over one and half minutes left in the quarter, Murphy made a slicing cut to the basket and finished to give Africentric a three point lead. Stephens was fouled and connected on to free throws to cut the lead to one.
Ransom had a chance to extend the Nubian lead to three but failed to sink the front end of a one and one. On the ensuing possession, Stephens sank a midrange jumper to regain the lead with just under 30 seconds left.
On a strong drive to the basket, Murphy was fouled and was headed to the line for two. She made one of two to tie the game. Neither team was able to get a good look at the basket to end the game and they headed into overtime tied at 45.
The Nubians dominated from start to finish in the overtime period, solidifying their place in the regional final. Johnson and Murphy combined for seven points in the extra frame, five right off of the jump. This run proved too be too much for the Flashes who fell 54-50.
Africentric was led in scoring by Johnson with 21 and Murphy with 16. Stephens paced Willard with 21 followed by Dials with 12.
Africentric will face the Ottawa-Glandorf on Sat., March 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Lexington High School.