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Pickerington Central returns to state semifinals with regional final win over Bishop Watterson

Berry Wallace and Blossom Wallace led the Tigers in scoring to capture the regional title

Westerville, Ohio – Blossom Wallace already has earned the reputation of being one of the most fearsome defenders in the state.

But the 6-foot-1 Pickerington Central sophomore guard ended up making an equally-large impact on the offensive side of the court in Friday’s Division I regional final at Otterbein University’s Rike Center, by scoring nine of her 11 points in the second half to help spark the Tigers to a 43-30 victory over Bishop Watterson.

With the win, Central improved to 25-3 overall and captured its second consecutive regional championship. The Tigers will face Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame or Springboro in a state semifinal March 15 at University of Dayton Arena.

“Our team has so many great players who can score, so the main thing that I’m usually known for is my defense,” said Wallace, who also had six rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block. “I was tired in the first half, because I had to guard (Watterson guard Sophie Ziel) and she’s such a great player who is always running all over the place. But in the second half, we rotated some other players on her more, and I just let the game come to me, and I was able to contribute more, offensively.”

Central coach Chris Wallace said he challenged Kennady Gordon and Faith King to take longer turns defending against Ziel in the second half to free up his younger daughter to do more scoring in support of her older sister, Berry.

Blossom responded by scoring seven points to help jumpstart a 15-6 run by Central over the final six minutes of the third quarter, which helped the Tigers take a commanding 35-26 advantage into the fourth quarter.

“We were ready for that scenario, because we knew that Watterson was going to focus a lot of defensive attention on Berry, and Blossom’s scoring is an X-factor that they couldn’t account for,” Chris Wallace said. “Blossom’s been scoring in double digits quite a bit this season, especially over the past 10 or 11 games and I knew we could count on her. She was more of a jump-shooter last season, but now she has the ability to get to the rim and make more midrange shots.”

After Berry made back-to-back field goals to break a 20-20 tie, Blossom pulled up and sank a short jump shot and then drove to the rim for a layup to put Central ahead 28-22 with 4 minutes, 55 second remaining in the third quarter.

Blossom then put back a missed shot by Mikaila Asamoah to make it 30-24, and later made a free throw to extend Central’s lead to 34-26 with 1:43 left.

“I’m super proud of Blossom,” said Berry Wallace, who is a University of Illinois signee and five-star recruit. “It was so much fun to see her defense turn to offense in the second half when we needed more scoring.”

Despite getting double-teamed and pushed around in the paint consistently the entire, Berry Wallace – a 6-1 senior forward – scored a game-high 14 points and had 11 rebounds, two blocks and two assists.

The Central District Player of the Year and Ohio Ms. Basketball  finalist withstood the physical punishment and scored eight points of those points in the decisive third quarter.

“Teams play Berry more physical than any other kid out there, but she played through it and we played through her,” coach Wallace said.

Berry showed off her versatility in the second half, dribbling and passing her way past trap attempts on the perimeter and double-teams in the paint, and scoring in a variety of ways.

“Berry’s just such a hard person to guard because she does so many things well,” Watterson coach Sam Davis said. “She’s incredibly difficult to defend in the paint, but she’s also got a really good outside and midrange shot. She rebounds well, and she passes really well, too.”

Berry intercepted an inbounds pass, drove to the rim and made a layup and a foul shot to convert a three-point play to stretch Central’s lead to 33-26 with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter.

The McDonald’s All-American then feathered a pass to Rylee Bess, who made a wide-open 3-pointer to give Central a commanding 41-27 advantage with only 5:21 remaining in the game.

“We talked at halftime about how we had to win the third quarter, and I knew I needed to step up and bring the energy to our team right there,” Berry said. “When they doubled me, I looked for open teammates. I think that 3-pointer by Rylee was the play that really sealed it.”

Zoe Coleman (7 points), Bess (5), Asamoah (4) and King (2) rounded out Central’s scoring. 

Blossom Wallace and Asamoah each had four steals and Coleman had three steals to pace Central’s swarming defense, which forced the Eagles into 21 turnovers.

“Their pressure hurt us and we just turned it over too much,” Davis said. “We rushed things and didn’t get into the style of offense that we needed to play. But that’s a credit to Pickerington Central and the defense they play. You can’t simulate their size and speed very easily in practice.”

Ziel scored all six of Watterson’s points on 3-for-3 shooting in the first quarter, and scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the first half to help the Eagles rally from a seven-point second-quarter deficit to pull with 20-18 by halftime.

But with Gordon and King taking turns harassing her, Ziel missed her final five field goals attempts and was held to just two points in the second half.

Lilly Mulligan (10 points, seven rebounds, three assists), Sparks (four points, seven rebounds) and Alexandria Mosholder (three points, five rebounds) also led the Eagles, who tied the score twice but never held a lead.

“I thought we did what we needed to do defensively, just not offensively,” Davis said. “We held this team to 43 points. Are you kidding me? Our defense has been holding us in games all season, but we needed to do a better job of holding onto the ball. This hurts a lot tonight, but this is a season where we’ve got a lot to be proud of.”

The Tigers now will turn their focus toward trying to win their first state championship since 2018. Central, who was the state runner-up in 2019, lost to Olmsted Falls 58-53 in a state semifinal a year ago.

“This championship is a testament to all of the hard work we’ve put in,” Berry Wallace said. “This means so much to us, because we want to get back to state and finally win it all.”