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Laurel defeats Fairland in Division II state semifinal with help of freshman's late-game heroics

Jordyn Miller's basket in the final seconds sends Laurel to Division II state championship game

DAYTON, Ohio - Laurel guard Jordyn Meyer was frustrated with how poorly she shot in shootaround on Friday morning at 7:30 am prior to the OHSAA Division II state semifinal against Fairland.

But the freshman was happier just a few hours later, making the go-ahead basket with 5.9 seconds remaining. After Fairland missed the second of two free throws with 0.2 seconds left, the Gators had a 53-52 win. 

"It's funny because we were at shootaround this morning, and she wasn't hitting as many shots that she would have liked," Laurel head coach Terrina Robinson said. "And I told her, Hey, you can't get frustrated, just stay positive. And when your time comes, you'll be ready." 

The two teams traded baskets in the final minutes, with Fairland tying the game with 21.5 seconds remaining on a layup by Addison Godby, which set up the final sequence of the game.

Then when Laurel needed a game-winning shot, it wasn't Saniyah Hall taking sending the ball towards the basket, but the sophomore sensation played a huge part in the play.

Robinson called a timeout with 15.6 seconds remaining and the Gators go the ball out of bounds near the Fairland bench on the side of the floor opposite their basket.

The ball was inbounded to Hall, who immediately dribbled to the to the right side of the floor where she was triple-teamed before turning up the court. She outraced the three defenders and as a fourth defender approached as Hall was about five feet behind the 3-point line, she fired a pass inside to a cutting Meyer who was wide open for the layup.

"I was getting trapped and I was trying to set up the play, and I couldn't even run it because there were so many people around her and around that area," Meyer said. "I just had to get myself open. And we had to scratch the whole idea and I had all the coaches yelling at me to get open, but the basket was wide open and Saniyah with her God-given talent got where she needed to go, so it ended up having me wide open and if it wasn't for Saniyah getting open, it never would have happened."

That God-given talent Meyer speaks of when it comes to Hall is something that has always been evident. And while it is often her scoring that draws praise, her head coach knows that Hall's ability and willingness to be a distributor makes her truly special.

"Obviously, we talk about how prolific of a scorer (Hall) is," Robinson said. "But the thing that I've been preaching all year was her unselfishness, and her willingness to make everybody else around her better. And I think that's what that last play was, her true nature coming out."

Fairland got the ball inbounded quickly and were up the floor ahead of the defense as Bailey Russell took an off-balance shot while being fouled. She made the first free throw, but the second hit the rim and bounced off.

"If we wanted anyone to shoot the shots, it would have been Bailey," Fairland senior Bree Allen said. "So I am glad it was her and no one blames her for anything."

The set that turned into the game-winning play for Laurel wasn't even one that was discussed during the timeout right before the sequence.

"To be completely honest with you, we drew a play up and didn't even get to run it because of how they were pressuring the ball," Robinson said. "We've been working on situations for the past two or three months. And one of them was when you're in that situation, understanding how to be able to manipulate the defense to create successful actions." 

While Hall scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, it was Meyer hitting big shots all game long, knocking down three 3-pointers and scoring 14 points for the Gators.

"The kid that beat us was number 22, that was the kid that beat us," Fairland head coach Jon Buchanan said. "The Meyer kid we didn't necessarily account for. We knew she could shoot the basketball but she kind of made us pay whenever we went to double (Hall) I want to give credit where credit's due."

Fairland had a balanced scoring attack, as Russell, Godby, Kamryn Barnitz and Kylee Bruce each scored 11 points to lead the Dragons.

Laurel will now face Purcell Marian in the Division II state championship game on Saturday at 5:15. The Cavaliers are the defending Division II state champions and have won two state titles in a row, including a Division III crown in 2022. They also feature the reigning two-time Ohio Ms. Basketball in Dee Alexander. 

-- Ryan Isley | | @sbliveoh