VANDALIA — Lauren Barhorst’s only concern two years ago was to recuperate and play volleyball and basketball again. Barhorst missed all of her sophomore basketball season after tearing the ACL, MCL, both menisci and “a bunch of other stuff” in her left knee.
Earning a state berth in either sport? A distant dream.
A dream no more.
Barhorst came up with several late baskets in the fourth quarter and junior guard Ella Doseck hit four late free throws, including a pair with 1.4 seconds left, to lift Anna to a 40-39 victory over Cincinnati Purcell Marian in a Division III regional final on Saturday at Springfield High School.
Barhorst scored the first seven points of the fourth to give the Rockets a 31-28 lead with 5:12 left but Purcell Marian twice came back and took the lead.
Kara King made two foul shots with 21 seconds to put the Cavaliers ahead 39-36, but Doseck drew contact on a drive with 9.2 seconds left and made two foul shots.
After Purcell Marian’s Santia Cravens missed a pair of free throws, Barhorst grabbed the rebound and threw a pass to Doseck, who raced from the Cavaliers’ free-throw line to Anna’s post and drew a foul.
She made both foul shots to put the squad ahead, then secured the win by intercepting Purcell Marian’s late inbounds pass.
“Grit,” Anna coach Jeff Maurer said. “Just grit. They refused to lose. They kept battling.”
It’s the sixth regional title for the program and its first since 2013, when it won the D-III title. Anna (22-6) will play in a D-III regional semifinal on Friday at St. John’s Arena in Columbus.
“It took everyone fulfilling their role,” Maurer said. “There’s a lot of girls on this team that don’t necessarily knock down shots like Ella hit at the end of the game but girls like Lenna Rowland, Michaela Ambos are needed, girls that do what we ask them. They go in there and scrap for loose balls, play defense.”
Barhorst, a senior center, led Anna with 16 points and 10 rebounds. She also had one block and one steal.
“I’m so proud to be where I am today,” Barhorst said. “I didn’t think I’d even be able to play basketball again.”
The Rockets dropped to 6-4 after a nonconference loss to Versailles on Dec. 26 and lost two of their last three regular-season games.
The team has continued to fight through hardships — including in its last three tournament games. The Rockets have trailed in all three, including in a district final last week when they overcame a 17-point deficit to beat Arcanum.
“Working through the hard times just made a difference,” Doseck said. “We worked on getting better after a tough loss and are always pushing ourselves to get better.”
All nine of Doseck’s points came at free-throw line, and six came in the fourth quarter. Anna hit 13-of-14 free-throw attempts while Purcell Marian made 3-of-18.
Doseck also had two assists and one steal.
“I was just thinking about my teammates,” Doseck said of her last-second free throws. “I was just thinking about how hard we worked all year and that I need to hit these for them.”
Barhorst made a big difference in the second half, during which she scored nine points. Maurer said he challenged her at halftime and told her to take it to the basket strong and try to draw contact inside.
“He basically told me to step up,” Barhorst said. “I was taking not bad shot selections, but I needed to be more patient with the ball. I was kind of rushing shots and just had to take my time and do what I know how to do. Molly Rioch guards me in practice and always does a good job of constantly fouling me and making me shoot under pressure.”
Purcell Marian led 20-18 at halftime but Barhorst and Kiplyn Rowland hit the first two baskets of the second quarter to give Anna a 22-20 lead. The Cavaliers scored the next seven points, with King scoring five.
Rowland, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds, hit a basket with 45 seconds left in the third to cut the gap to 28-24, then Barhorst opened the fourth with a three-point play and two baskets in the post.
“We would have liked to get her the ball inside more,” Maurer said of Barhorst. “We have a lot of sets we can run to get her the ball, but (Purcell Marian’s) pressure just denies you. It takes you out of your ability to get down and run those.”
Cravens scored five points in 30 seconds to give Purcell Marian a 35-34 lead with 3:26 left and McKenna Haugabook followed with a basket with 2:54 left to put the Cavaliers ahead 37-34.
“We weren’t worried,” Barhorst said. “We were one game away from Columbus, and we were like, ‘We can do this.’ We all know how to do it; it’s nothing we haven’t done before.
“… We know we always just have to come together as one team (in those situations). We can’t constantly yell at each other because that’s how teams fall apart. We always do a great job of coming together.”
Anna’s players will do something they haven’t done before when they take the court at St. John’s Arena on Friday.
“I think it would be great to leave a legacy of a state championship, but one game at a time,” Barhorst said. “We’ll have to come together and persevere. We’re always the underdog coming in, so we’re not worried. It’ll be great to come out with a victory.”
The Rockets will likely be considered an underdog again in their state semifinal. They will face two-time defending state champion Columbus Africentric in the semifinal, which will tip off at 3 p.m. on Friday. The Nubians, which have three Division I collegiate recruits, beat Ottawa-Glandorf 38-34 in a regional final on Saturday.
“The girls actually wrote this on our goal board at the beginning of the year,” Maurer said. “We wrote five or six goals, and they wanted to win 20 games, wanted to win a district title, and one of them was to get to Columbus. I’m so proud.”
Anna started the first quarter with a 7-2 run, which Barhorst capped off with a mid-range jumper with 2:37 left. The Cavaliers finished on a 5-2 run, though, to pull within 13-9 by the end of the quarter.
Doseck hit a pair of free throws with 7:21 left in the second quarter to boost the Rockets’ lead to six points. They didn’t score again for the next six minutes, though, and Purcell Marian rattled off 11 points. King scored nine of those points, including two 3s from the left wing.
Ambos hit a basket and made a free throw with 1:07 left to bring Anna within two points at halftime.
“We challenged the girls at halftime,” Maurer said. “We told them this was their shot at Columbus. We knew athletically (Purcell Marian) was going to get after us. In the first half, Ella was a little bit on an island because the girls weren’t coming to her. In the second half, the girls started moving a little bit more and sharing the basketball.”
Purcell Marian finishes 21-7 overall. King led the team with 20 points while Haugabook scored eight.