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Africentric headed back to Division III state championship game with win over Keystone

The Lady Nubians will look to defend their Division III state championship on Saturday

DAYTON, Ohio - The last time Africentric's girls basketball team played at the University of Dayton Arena, the Lady Nubians cut down the nets after winning the 2023 OHSAA Division III state championship.

They are just one game away from doing that again after defeating Keystone 62-35 on Thursday  evening in the Division III state semifinals.  

After leading just 14-10 after the first quarter, the defending state champions turned up the pressure defensively in the second quarter and held Keystone scoreless for the first 5:58 and allowed just five points in the quarter, two of those coming off a steal and fast break layup.   

"We wanted to pressure them," Africentric head coach Janicia Anderson said. "We were getting a little too antsy. We were sagging off a little too much. We got too comfortable being stuck in the paint. We wanted to push up more, force them to be a lot more uncomfortable."

Keystone was also only able to muster seven shots in the quarter, making just two.

Africentric on the other hand, rattled off the first nine points of the quarter, scored 14 overall, and went into the locker room with a 28-15 lead at halftime. 

The quarter was capped by a steal from Jeniya Bowers, who went the length of the floor for a layup while drawing a foul and finishing off the three-point play. It gave the Lady Nubians even more momentum heading into the half.

"I think it started with that defensive stop," Anderson said. "We preach defense first. So for us to get to a stop and then get an and-1 definitely gave us a lot of momentum. It definitely gave me more room to tell them to defend first and we'll get what we want. So they started believing me after that. So it worked in our favor."

It was more of the same in the third, with Africentric scoring the first eight points and 12 of the first 14 en route to taking a commanding 52-23 lead after three quarters.

In the second and third quarters combined, Africentric scored 38 points and the Lady Nubians did so by shooting 17-of-28 from the floor, grabbing nine offensive rebounds and getting 10 second chance points.

Overall, Africentric rebounded Keystone 38-18.

"We have a motto, 'everybody crash,'" Anderson said. "Kam (Kamryn Grant) is definitely always putting herself in the best position, so is Sam (Samairah Thompson) and Natiah (Nelson). When the shot goes up, get position to try to get that basketball and go up strong and we definitely did a great job of doing that today."

After missing all but two games last season, including the tournament and state championship run, senior Kamryn Grant scored 12 of her game-high 22 points in the third quarter for Africentric. She also had a game-high 11 rebounds.

Africentric's Kamryn Grant (No. 24 in white) watches as her layup goes through the basket against Keystone in a Division IV state semifinal game on March 14, 2024.

Africentric's Kamryn Grant (No. 24 in white) watches as her layup goes through the basket against Keystone in a Division IV state semifinal game on March 14, 2024.

The University of Dayton commit was happy to be playing under the spotlight, especially on the floor where she will be playing her college basketball.

"(It felt) really good, I enjoyed being out there," Grant said. "This is the college I'm going to, so it's very exciting overall and being out there in one of my last games with my girls, it's just very exciting. It felt good to be out there under the bright lights. I haven't been on a court like that in a while."

Bowers added 11 points for the Lady Nubians, and Natiah Nelson and Samairah Thompson each scored 10.

The loss was the first on the season for Keystone, who had won its first 28 games of the campaign and was making its first trip to the state semifinals. The wildcats were led by Jessica Forthofer with 18 points. The Wildcats were without the services of junior guard Brooklyn Barber, their leading scorer, with a knee injury. 

With the win, Africentric will return to the University of Dayton Arena on Saturday at 2:00 pm to defend the Division III state title against either Portsmouth or Ottawa-Glandorf.

It is the 11th time int he state championship game for Africentric, tying Berlin Hiland for the most in OHSAA history.

-- Ryan Isley | | @sbliveoh