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Girls Hoops: Fairmont denies Twinsburg third state title

8:54 AM, Mar 17, 2013   |    comments
Twinsburg High School basketball logo / Photo courtesy Twinsburg girls basketball Julie Solis
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It was a fitting finale for Associated Press Ms. Basketball Ashley Morrissette's career.

It just didn't end the way she wanted.

Makayla Waterman scored 24 points and hit a late clinching free throw and Kathryn Westbeld added 13 points and 12 rebounds to lead Kettering Fairmont to a 52-48 victory over two-time defending big-school champion Twinsburg on Saturday night, ending the Tigers' 42-game winning streak.

Morrissette had 27 points, including 15 of her team's 17 in the fourth quarter, for Twinsburg (29-1), which lost to an Ohio school for the first time in 73 games.

"I didn't want it to be over," said Morrissette, who's committed to Purdue. "If I was going out, I was going out on my terms -- shooting on my terms ... and fighting."

The victory allowed the Firebirds (27-1) to atone for a 57-41 loss to Twinsburg in last year's Division I state final.

The two junior post players were the biggest reason for the turnaround.

"Winning the state tournament was all we thought about," said Waterman, the granddaughter of former Ohio State assistant and legendary high school coach Ben Waterman. "I think experience helped us. We had faith in each other. We bought in."

The title was the Firebirds' first after coming up short in four trips to the state's final four.

"The kids kept their composure during difficult times," Fairmont coach Tim Cogan said. "And we were on a roller coaster at times in that game."

The Tigers still had a chance to tie in the closing seconds after some incredible shooting by Morrissette. She hit a jumper with 1:03 left and 3s with 41 and 24 seconds remaining to cut the Fairmont lead to 51-48.

After the Firebirds turned the ball over on a bad pass with 7.9 seconds left, Twinsburg set up for a possible tying shot, taking the ball out at the far end of the court. But Fairmont's Alona Skipper got a hand on the inbounds pass and it went out of bounds off a Tigers player.

Waterman was then fouled with 6 seconds left and made the first of two free throws to clinch the win.

"Westbeld was great and Waterman was tough," Morrissette said of the highly sought junior recruits, pursued by almost every major program in the country.

"Their big girls are both high-level Division I (college) players," Twinsburg coach Julie Solis said of Westbeld and Waterman. "We did not do a good job defending them."

The Tigers came in having won their last 42 games overall and the last 72 in a row against Ohio schools, the last loss coming to Canton McKinley in the regional championship game on March 12, 2010. They were also trying to become only the second Division I or big school in Ohio to win at least three in a row.

Morrissette fell to 102-6 in her high school career.

When they met in the finals a year ago, Morrissette had 22 points and eight rebounds and Twinsburg roared out to a 15-3 lead after a quarter and won 57-41.

Fairmont opened up a lead late in the third quarter, scoring the final six points to go up 38-31 heading into the final 8 minutes.

Morrissette hit two field goals to narrow the gap to 39-35, but then Waterman took a handoff and powered around a screen for a layup.

Later, with the teams still separated by four points, Westbeld drove past Baleigh Reid, hit the layup and was fouled -- Reid's fifth. That put the Firebirds up 44-37. After a miss by the Tigers, the Firebirds ran more than a minute off the clock until Westbeld was fouled again and hit both with 2:23 left for a nine-point advantage.

After Westbeld missed the front end of a one-and-one, Morrissette popped in a 3 to cut the lead to 46-40 with 1:20 left.

But then Skipper, Westbeld and Chelsea Welch hit five foul shots -- while Morrissette was going wild -- to set up the final excitement.

Morrissette was brilliant, but on this night, the depth and strength of the Firebirds won out.

"She deserved that award," Solis said of Morrissette's Ms. Basketball title. "But her real goal was to finish 30-0."

Instead, Fairmont went 27-1 -- and 1-1 in state finals against the Tigers.

Story written by AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller

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