COLUMBUS — Kennedy Schlabach wasn’t quite sure when the ball left her hand just behind the 3-point line.
But less than a second later, the ball found the bottom of the net.
Schlabach’s 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Berlin Hiland to a 44-41 victory over Ottoville in the Division IV girls basketball state semifinals Saturday at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
Right before the game-winning shot, Ottoville’s Bridget Landin made two free throws to tie the game at 41 with 7.8 seconds left.
Hiland took the ball out and got the ball in guard Morgan McMillen’s hands. She quickly sprinted across halfcourt and reached the key before firing it out to Schlabach on the right wing, just behind the 3-point line.
Schlabach didn’t waste a second in her catch-and-shoot, game-winning shot.
“Honestly, I thought it was long,” Schlabach said. “When it went in, it was crazy. I thought Morgan was going to shoot, but she got it to me and I just let it fly. The last time I looked at the clock there were three seconds left.”
Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said, “We wanted the ball to Morgan to bring it up. She got it to the key and she (Schlabach) was open.”
Ottoville coach Dave Kleman gave all the credit to Kennedy Schlabach.
“It was a great shot by Kennedy,” Kleman said. “It was a big-time shot. They pushed it, kicked it to Kennedy and someone needed to be in her face.”
Berlin Hiland (28-1) advances to the state finals against defending state champion Waterford (25-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Ohio State.
Ottoville ends its year 24-4.
Landin led the Big Green with 15 points and 10 rebounds. C.J. Kemper had seven points, while Amber Miller had six.
Kasey Knippen had three points and six rebounds.
Schlabach finished with 15 points for the Hawks. She was 3 of 7 on 3-pointers.
Angela Troyer, the east district player of the year, led the Hawks with 18 points, including scoring nine in the fourth quarter.
Ottoville led 10-7 after the first quarter and 21-18 at the half.
Both teams’ halfcourt defenses were smothering throughout the game, especially in the second half.
Hiland ended up with 13 turnovers, but had 11 of those in the first half when the Ottoville defense continually pushed the Hawks out deep and made it tricky to run their sets.
“We gave ourselves a chance in the second half with only two turnovers,” coach Schlabach said.
And while the Hiland man-to-man press didn’t cause Ottoville problems, the Hawks’ man defense forced 22 Ottoville turnovers.
“We just didn’t execute enough and didn’t score enough,” Kleman said. “But the turnovers, we had 21, jump out.”
Hiland coach Schlabach said, “Ottoville is the best team we’ve played. They’re deep and defend so well.”
Ottoville had a 7-0 run in the third quarter to pull out to a 32-22 lead, but Hiland cut the margin to 32-27 after three quarters.
Troyer scored five straight points, including a three-point play, early in the final quarter to help the Hawks pull out to a 39-36 lead with 1:34 to go.
But when the Hawks missed three straight front ends of one-and-ones, they gave Ottoville an opportunity.
Landin hit 5 of 6 at the line in the final minute, with her final two foul shots tying the game at 41 with 7.8 seconds left.
“It was tough at the end, but I knew I had to make them to stay in the game,” Landin said.
Hiland shot 37 percent from the field and was 5 of 17 on 3-pointers.
The Big Green shot 45 percent and was 3 of 10 on 3-pointers.
Ottoville won the boards, 27-19.
It marked Ottoville’s sixth trip to the girls state tourney and first since 2013.
“We’re such a close-knit team. This hurt,” Landin said.
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.