COLUMBUS – On the morning of Saturday March 3rd, the Lady Raiders found themselves in familiar territory at Ohio Dominican University. Reynoldsburg was seeking its 8th district title in the last 9 years, and they found themselves back in the district finals in 2017-18 after rolling through their first three playoff games. Even more, this year’s district final for the Lady Raiders was against OCC-Ohio division rival Gahanna-Lincoln: a team they had beaten twice by single digits en route to a share of the division title this year.
But what ended up being another close thriller, the third time was the charm for Gahanna-Lincoln.
Down six at the half, Reynoldsburg (20-6) would eventually rally to take its first lead of the game and force overtime on a game-tying bucket by senior Jalynda Salley with 14 seconds to go in regulation after Gahanna-Lincoln missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Lady Raiders would then score the first four points in overtime, but Gahanna-Lincoln would capitalize on missed free throws and three late Reynoldsburg turnovers in the extra period. The Lady Lions would score 7 of the final 8 points of the game as a result to stun Reynoldsburg and deny the Lady Raiders a third consecutive district title in a heartbreaking 54-52 overtime loss.
Reynoldsburg won 61-52 at home on December 8th and 60-57 on the road on January 19th against Gahanna-Lincoln, which alone set the stage for another thriller at Ohio Dominican University. The Lady Raiders had won its first three playoff games by at least 26 points and had averaged 73.3 PPG in the process, while Gahanna-Lincoln had averaged 71 PPG in their first three playoff games, including a three-point win over Bishop Hartley in the district semifinals.
All of those stats were thrown out on Saturday morning in the district finals, as both battle-tested OCC-Ohio rivals seemed to pick up where they last left off immediately after the opening tip.
Gahanna-Lincoln would score just 9 seconds into the game on a quick layup, and junior Destiny Fields would open the scoring for the Lady Raiders to tie the game at 2-2 with 6:38 left in the opening period. The Lady Lions would score the next four points in the paint as well, capitalizing on transition opportunities and missed baskets by Reynoldsburg. Junior Uju Ezeudu got on the board for Reynoldsburg halfway into the 1st quarter with a bucket in the post and splitting a pair of free throws. Gahanna-Lincoln would hit a three-pointer in between and miss another attempt from downtown, but Ezeudu would rebound and guard Breanna Johnson would score from behind the arc to make it 9-8 Gahanna-Lincoln with 2:59 left in the opening quarter. The Lady Lions would score in the paint again on its next three possessions, but Salley would score two big buckets for Reynoldsburg in the final minute of the opening quarter to get the Lady Raiders within 15-12 of Gahanna-Lincoln.
Both teams would go cold to open the 2nd quarter, with Gahanna-Lincoln eventually striking first with 6:06 left in the half to extend its lead to five. Fields would draw a foul a short time later, hit a pair of free throws, and score an easy layup thanks to a rebound and assist by Ezeudu to get Reynoldsburg within one of the Lady Lions a minute later. With 4:10 left in the half, sophomore guard Kyria Walker would commit a foul that led to a pair of free throws by Gahanna-Lincoln, but the Lady Raiders would turn the ball over twice and come up empty on their next two possessions as a result. Ezeudu would then draw a foul, hit the bucket, and the ensuing free throw to the the game at 19-19 with 2:56 left in the half. But Gahanna-Lincoln held the Lady Raiders without a field goal the rest of the half, scoring 7 of the final 8 points of the 2nd quarter to take a 26-20 halftime lead over Reynoldsburg.
Walker was held scoreless in the first half, but would hit a deep three-pointer with 6:50 left in the 3rd quarter to open the second half scoring and cut Gahanna-Lincoln’s lead to 26-23. This would begin a 12-5 run for the Lady Raiders, who would take its first lead of the game on a pair of free throws by Fields with 2:31 left in the period to make it 32-31 Reynoldsburg. The Lady Raiders would go 3-of-6 from the charity stripe after Walker’s three-pointer, but senior Mackenzie Davis would hit her two free throws, while Ezeudu would continue to dominate in the post with another bucket off of an offensive rebound as part of the scoring run. Gahanna-Lincoln would hit another three-pointer to briefly retake the lead, but Ezeudu and Salley would each score to put the Lady Raiders back up by two with 2:01 left in the 3rd quarter. Both teams would not score again until their final possessions of the period, alternate baskets but putting the Lady Raiders up 38-36 going into the 4th quarter.
Each team would trade buckets for the majority of the 4th quarter, and with the game tied 44-44 with 2:26 to go, the stage was set for what would be a wild finish in regulation.
Gahanna-Lincoln would split a pair of free throws to take a one-point lead, miss a three pointer, and the Lady Raiders would turn it over on their next two possessions. The Lady Lions would extend their lead to three on a teardrop jumper in the paint over Salley, who would split a pair of free throws at the other end to get Reynoldsburg to within 47-45 with 1:12 to go in regulation. Gahanna-Lincoln would be called for a travel and turn the ball over, but Walker would miss a go-ahead three-pointer with under a minute to go in regulation. Ezeudu would then commit a foul with 22.8 to go and Reynoldsburg would call timeout, leading to a one-and-one at the charity stripe by Gahanna-Lincoln after coming up of the huddle.
Then some Reynoldsburg magic filled the court of Ohio Dominican University.
Gahanna-Lincoln would miss the front end of the one-and-one that resulted in a rebound by Uju Ezeudu. Davis would dribble the ball up the court and throw a perfect bounce pass to Salley, who would hit an easy bucket to tie the game at 47-47 with 14 seconds to go in regulation. The Lady Lions would attempt a game-winning three pointer at the other end, but the shot was no good and the Lady Raiders managed to force overtime.
(Watch the above sequence by clicking here.)
Having new life and a lot of momentum, the Lady Raiders would come out strong to start overtime. Fields would score the last of her 13 points on an early layup, and Walker would make a pair of free throws 35 seconds later to extend Reynoldsburg’s lead to 51-47 with 2:55 to go in the extra period.
Then everything came to a screeching halt.
Reynoldsburg would turn the ball over on its next possession, and Gahanna-Lincoln would split a pair of free throws to cut the Lady Raiders’ lead to three with 2:16 to go in overtime. They would then tie the game from downtown on their next possession, Reynoldsburg coughed up the ball again, and the Lady Lions would sidestep their way through the defense for a go-ahead layup and a 53-51 lead over the Lady Raiders with 1:08 to go.
Ezeudu would then miss a pair of free throws after drawing a foul with under a minute to go in overtime. Gahanna-Lincoln would turn the ball over twice and come up empty, but Walker would miss a go-ahead three-pointer in that sequence that led to a timeout with 32.3 to go in the extra period. Ezeudu would eventually draw a foul with 10.4 seconds to go in overtime. She would miss her first free throw and hit her second, snapping a streak of three missed free throws in a row that got the Lady Raiders within one point of Gahanna-Lincoln. Reynoldsburg would commit a foul with 7.1 seconds to go, sending the Lady Lions to the free throw line.
They would make the first free throw to extend their lead to two, but missing the second free throw meant that a layup would tie the game and likely send it to a second overtime. But the Lady Raiders would dribble up the court and lose the ball just inside the three-point line, and Gahanna-Lincoln would steal the ball and run the clock out for a 54-52 victory and a district championship over the Lady Raiders.
(The final sequence of overtime and the game can be seen by clicking here.)
Edyn Battle of Gahanna-Lincoln led all scorers on Saturday morning, scoring 29 of her team’s 54 points to lead the Lady Lions.