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Harper Annarino's buzzer beater gives Granville a district title with 42-40 win over Bishop Hartley

"It wouldn’t have been possible if the other players hadn’t made the plays they were making"
Granville girls basketball

COLUMBUS, OH – With no previous close games to try it out, the Granville girls basketball team had to rely on faith that the play it called during its final timeout would work Saturday in a Division II district championship game at Capital University.

There was good reason for the Blue Aces to believe that passing the ball inside to 6-foot junior post player Harper Annarino would produce the desired result against Bishop Hartley in a matchup of two-time defending district champions, and she wound up delivering.

Annarino received a pass in the paint from Ava Gossman, and after dribbling once and turning around, her shot bounced on the rim and in just before the buzzer expired for the game-winning basket of a 42-40 victory.

“(Head) coach (Tate Moore) drew it up, and we knew what the play was supposed to be after the timeout,” Annarino said. “Ava threw it to me and it was a great pass. I shot it up and it went in. I felt like I had a good release. It wouldn’t have been possible if the other players hadn’t made the plays they were making.”

Granville, which was the district’s top seed and is 24-2, will play New Concord John Glenn at 8 p.m. February 28th at Zanesville in a regional semifinal.

Annarino came in averaging 18 points but was held to eight points by sixth-seeded Hartley, which finished just 10-15 overall with three wins coming in the postseason but has one of the area’s top players in senior guard Kiki McElrath.

The Hawks, who reached a state semifinal last season, kept pace by making big shots when it counted.

Granville was up 17-10 and had held McElrath to one point when McElrath scored with eight seconds to go in the second quarter, stole the inbounds pass and made another basket just before the second-quarter buzzer to cut it to three.

Then late in the third quarter, Annarino hit a pair of free throws after a technical foul was called on Hartley to make it 30-22.

McElrath and Anaya Bumpus, however, answered with 3-pointers and the Hawks were back to within 32-28 by the end of the third quarter.

“I was so happy with our first-half effort for the first 15 minutes, 30 seconds,” Moore said. “We told them that if we could keep (McElrath) at bay, we were going to win. She had a buzzer-beater in the second quarter and they had another big 3 late in the game. They made every shot they had to but we just made the last one.”

Hartley tied it at 34 when McElrath got a steal and made a jumper midway through the fourth, but Granville point guard Ella Schneider went 4-for-5 from the free-throw line in the final period including hitting a pair with 1:39 to go to give Granville a 40-37 lead.

Once again, McElrath responded, this time with a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to tie it.

The Blue Aces then held the ball to set up what would become the game-winning sequence.

“The plan was to get the ball to Annarino on the other side, but she’s a beast down there and she made her post move,” Gossman said. “She was open and she did what she did.

“This is huge for my senior year. I’ve wanted this for my team for so long. The past couple years, we’ve been really good, but we’ve had to fight a lot this year and I think our team chemistry is the best it’s ever been. We really want to get past where we were the last couple years.”

With Hartley head coach Donald Dennis out of town because of a work situation, long-time assistant Wade Brockwell served in his place. Brockwell has been a part of eight district championship teams in the past, including winning two as head coach at Bexley and one as head coach at Pickerington Central.

McElrath, who closed her prep career with more than 1,100 points and is uncommitted, finished with 21 points against the Blue Aces.

“We missed layups early and it really hurt us, but our kids battled,” Brockwell said. “We’ve come so far from where we were at the beginning of the season to where we are now and it hurts to watch that ball bounce in. We knew … it was going (to Annarino).

“Kiki is special. She is by far one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached. She’s an incredible as a person and a player and I can’t tell you how much she means to us.”

Granville has lost in regional semifinals each of the past two seasons but has its eye on a longer tournament stay.

A 20-point regular-season loss February 7th to Bexley, which won the other district championship Saturday at Capital University, served as a “wakeup call” according to Annarino.

“I feel like as a team, we’re very connected,” Schneider said. “We’re all on the same page and build each other up so that we can go and get the next one. It’s our goal to get further than we did last year so we’ve just got to prepare the next couple days and survive and advance.”