By Matt Zircher
For the Sidney Daily News
VANDALIA — Heading into the final period here Saturday, it didn’t look like Jackson Center would be heading back to the state semifinals for the second straight year. They trailed Minster, a team that they had lost to by 14 during the regular season, 23-17.
The fourth quarter, though, would be a different story as Jackson outscored the Lady Wildcats 22-12 to pull out a 39-35 decision in the Division 4 girls basketball regional finals.
Jackson Center takes a 23-4 record into the state semifinals against defending champion Waterford Thursday at 6 at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Delayed nearly five minutes at the start as the lights did not come back on following the pregame introductions, both offenses appeared to stay in the dark in the opening stanza as the two teams combined for six points, with no field goals until Minster’s Rosie Westerbeck hit a layup at the 4:17 mark.
The Jackson offense started to come alive at the start of the second quarter, thanks to Vanessa Winner, who connected on a pair of threes from the right side to help the Lady Tigers build a 12-4 advantage midway through the period.
“Vanessa has done a fantastic job for us all year, but especially during the tournament,” said Jackson coach Jeff Reese. “She hit those two three-pointers and that did so much to help our confidence.”
Back came the Lady Wildcats as a three of their own from Ali Borgerding keyed a 10-0 run to give them the lead for the first time and a 14-13 halftime edge.
As expected, both teams struggled from the field in the first half as Minster hit five of 13 shots for 38 percent while the Lady Tigers were just four of 17 for 24 percent.
The offenses again came out slow in the third quarter, with each team scoring two points until Demaris Wolf hit a three at the 1:40 mark. Two Taylor Kogge foul shots 32 seconds later extended the Minster lead to 21-15 and the Lady Wildcats were still up six heading into the final period.
Kennadie Reese, however, got Jackson off to a great start in the fourth with a deep three from the top and Alicia Kessler tied the game at 23 with 6:23 to play on a layup and later free throw.
“Reese’s three was big,” said Minster coach Mike Wiss. “That’s not a typical shot for her, but she put it up and that got them going.”
Lindsay Roetgerman put Minster back in front with a layup and a Courtney Prenger foul shot gave the Wildcats a 26-25 edge with 3:47 remaining. But that turned out to be their final lead of the game as an Olivia Clark basket and a pair of free throws from both Reese and Cassie Meyer gave the Lady Tigers a 31-26 margin at the 2:33 mark.
Jackson looked to be in control as two Kamryn Elchert foul shots with a minute left put the Lady Tigers up 35-28, but a Westerbeck free throw and a Prenger jumper cut the deficit to four. Following a Winner foul shot with 17 seconds remaining, Wolf connected on a three with 9.9 seconds left to make 37-35.
After a Minster timeout, the Lady Wildcats had a chance to either tie or win the contest as Jackson turned the ball over on its next possession. Reese, however, came up with the clinching play for the Tigers as she stole the inbounds pass and hit two foul shots at the 5.1-second mark for the final margin.
“I still felt we were in the driver’s seat after that turnover,” said Reese. “But Kennadie came up with the steal and gave us that extra inch.
“It’s a little bit of a whirlwind right now, just trying to take in what all happened,” added the Jackson coach. “It was looking pretty gloomy for us for a while, but Kennadie hitting that three was the turning point. It breathed some new life into us at a time when we needed it.”
“Games like this usually come down to making a play here and there and Jackson was able to do that,” said Wiss. “It was two good defenses going at each other and it was a slugfest on offense. Congratulations to Jackson Center and Coach Reese for an outstanding job they’ve done. They are very worthy of being where they’re at. ”
The shooting percentages ended up similar as Minster shot 29 percent and Jackson 28 percent. The Lady Tigers, though, were 20 of 25 at the foul line, 15 of 19 in the fourth quarter, while the Lady Wildcats were 12 of 20, five of 10 in the final period.
Reese led all scorers with 12 for Jackson despite not scoring a point until the fourth quarter, hitting nine of 10 free throws in the process. Winner had nine points off the bench for the Lady Tigers while Cassie Meyer had six points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Westerbeck had 11 points for Minster as did Wolf coming off the bench, but no other Lady Wildcat had more than four.
Jackson Center announced its plans to sell tickets for the state tournament. The procedure will be as follows:
Parents of the players and coaches’ families at their parent meeting. Limit of 8.
8 a.m. for students. Classes will be called one at a time. Limit of 1 ticket.
District residents can begin buying tickets starting at noon. Limit of 6.
General admission (non-district residents) from noon to 3.
General admission tickets on sale from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
7:30 to 9 a.m. Ticket sale will be complete at 9 a.m.
Minster (35) – Roetgerman 2, Westerbeck 11, Borgerding 3, Prenger 4, Kogge 4, Wolf 11.
Jackson Center (39) – Reese 12, Elchert 2, Meyer 6, Clark 3, Ware 4, Winner 9, Kessler 3.
Score by quarters:
Minster ` 2 ` 14 ` 23 ` 35
Jackson `4 ` 13 ` 17 ` 39
Three-pointers: Minster 3 (Wolf 2, Borgerding); Jackson 3 (Winner 2, Reese).
Records: Minster 24-3, Jackson Center 23-4.
Next Game: Thursday, state semifinals at OSU’s Schottenstein Center, 6 p.m. vs. 26-1 Waterford.