KETTERING, Ohio - The Mount Notre Dame basketball team is returning to Columbus.
MND staged a late rally in the fourth quarter to defeat Mason 41-35 in a Division I regional final at Kettering Fairmont’s Trent Arena Saturday night.
It will be MND’s first state semifinal appearance since 2009, when the Cougars won their fifth state title (and fourth in a row).
MND plays Canton McKinley in a state semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday at the Schottenstein Center.
“It’s a dream come true,” MND sophomore guard Gabbie Marshall said of going to Columbus.
The Cougars (24-4) kept the faith. MND kept battling all night – whether it was in transition, on the perimeter or in the paint.
Even when MND coach Dr. Scott Rogers gave them a stern lecture facing a five-point halftime deficit, the Cougars kept their focus.
Mason built an eight-point lead with 6:15 left in the third, but the Cougars didn’t fold.
MND finally found a way to take its first lead of the night with 2:10 left in the fourth and never looked back.
“It’s all them. That’s all I can say. They just refuse to quit right now,” Rogers said of his players. “I am just so proud of them for that. They are fun to coach. God bless them. I can’t say enough about them.”
Junior forward Abby Voss had a game-high 16 points to go along with four rebounds to lead the Cougars.
Marshall added 11 points, five rebounds and two assists. Senior forward Maria Pisciotta had eight points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Rogers teared up when asked about the MND tradition and returning to state. He said his late friend, former college football coach Don Horton, is looking down on the team this season.
“This one is really sweet,” Rogers said. “This one is so sweet.”
The Cougars were down 8-1 but settled into a rhythm in the second quarter and tied the game twice before Mason led 17-12 at half.
Mason led 22-17 at the end of the third quarter, but Voss scored six points in 20 seconds to help close the gap midway through the fourth.
MND went ahead on Marshall’s two free throws. Sophomore Julia Hoefling’s layup gave MND the lead for good at 34-33 with 2:10 left.
As she took a turn at cutting down a piece of the net, Voss kept smiling.
“It means everything,” said Voss, whose brother Riley helped Moeller win a district title earlier in the day in Dayton.
“I’ve never experienced something so crazy with both sides of the student sections. At the beginning I was nervous, but then I just played.”
MND is the fourth different Cincinnati-area team to reach the state Final Four in as many years. MND will leave for Columbus Thursday night. The school has scheduled a pep rally for Thursday afternoon.
Friday will be the eighth state tournament appearance for MND. The Cougars also won state basketball titles in 2008, '07, '06 and '04.
The Comets (23-4) have plenty of reasons to be proud.
They were ranked nationally and were among the elite teams in the state. Mason also won a share of the Greater Miami Conference title.
Mason was led by junior forward Anna Brinkmann, who scored 10 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
Mason coach Rob Matula gave all the credit to MND but said it hurt not to have senior guard Samari Mowbray in the lineup. Mowbray injured her wrist in the regional semifinal against McAuley and wasn’t available to play Saturday.
“We’ve been in a situation throughout the entire year,” Matula said. “We’ve had to overcome some things injury-wise and change dynamics and so forth. We knew it was going to be a tough when we lose a senior and a second-leading scorer. Give MND credit – they did everything they needed to do."
Saturday was the first time Mason and MND played since the sectional tournament in February 2012.