KETTERING, Ohio -- Sammie Puisis walked out of the locker room Wednesday night and reflected on a wild finish in the regional semifinal just a few minutes earlier.
"To me it's all crazy right now," the Mason sophomore guard said. "I can't believe we pulled that out."
Mason defeated Lakota West 44-43 Wednesday night at Kettering Fairmont's Trent Arena in a second regional semifinal that featured the Greater Miami Conference elite programs in an electric atmosphere.
The Comets (23-3) advance to play Mount Notre Dame (23-4) in the regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at Trent Arena. The Cincinnati area is guaranteed to have a team in the state semifinals for a fourth consecutive season.
Saturday will be the first time Mason and MND will play this season.
Puisis had a game-high 13 points to go along with seven rebounds. Junior forward Anna Brinkmann had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Comets played most of the game without senior forward Samari Mowbray, who injured her right wrist after making a basket at the 4:13 mark of the first quarter.
"Unfortunately we lose our second leading scorer early in the game and everybody is like, ‘Oh boy, that's too bad; it's over,'" Mason coach Rob Matula said. "But you know we've had kids step up all year. Every different kid did something that gave us a little bit of scrappiness."
Mowbray, a Miami University signee, is expected to get an X-ray on her wrist.
"It doesn't look good," Matula said. "She could dribble but couldn't cock her wrist."
Puisis said Mowbray's injury motivated the team, and the Comets wanted to play for her.
"We have played (West) multiple times," Puisis said. "I think it's a privilege to play them. They are a great team."
For Lakota West (24-3), missed shots hampered its opportunities. The Firebirds shot 31 percent from the field and only 25 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
Lakota West coach Andy Fishman said the outcome could've went either way and he was proud of the effort to rally back from a 3-point halftime deficit.
"I give Mason a lot of credit," Fishman said. "They made the plays they needed to make."
Mason had 32 free throws off Lakota West's 24 fouls.
"Our effort and intensity to come back was really good," Fishman said. "We struggled throughout the game because we failed to execute and make easy shots. We put ourselves in a hole. I am so proud of the way we battled back from poor shooting."
Lakota West junior guard Abby Prohaska, a Notre Dame commit, had 13 points and nine rebounds. Junior forward Jasmine Ballew added 10 points and five rebounds.
Mount Notre Dame 37, McAuley 36
With the game on the line and her team trailing, Mount Notre Dame sophomore guard Gabbie Marshall tried to stay calm.
Marshall connected on a shot from the left wing -- a floater that banked in softly against the glass -- with 8.9 seconds left as Mount Notre Dame defeated McAuley to advance to Saturday's regional final at Fairmont.
The play wasn't drawn up. The dribble drive was all instinct.
"It was crazy in my mind," Marshall said. "I saw an opening and I just tried to go for it."
Marshall had 10 points for the Cougars (23-4).
Sophomore forward Julia Hoefling had a game-high 12 points. Senior forward Maria Pisciotta added eight points and junior forward Abby Voss had seven.
"The girls played so well," MND coach Dr. Scott Rogers said. "We were really prepared. The kids really bought into what we were talking about the past few days. They deserve so much of the credit."
McAuley (23-3) was led by sophomore guard Sydney Benning with eight points. Senior forward Alexah Chrisman, a Rice signee, added seven points.
McAuley made six 3-pointers in the game. The Mohawks shot just one free throw and that came with under a minute left.
McAuley coach Dan Wallace said liked everything about his team and the effort it gave all night.
"Just a tremendous basketball team and a tremendous locker room," Wallace. "I am just proud of this team."
The game had six ties but MND led most of the way. McAuley freshman guard Lexi Fleming made a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Mohawks a 28-27 lead at the end of the third quarter – its first lead since 5:02 in the second quarter.
The teams traded field goals midway through the fourth quarter but McAuley led most of the quarter. Hoefling's jumper closed the gap with 2:45 left.
After McAuley missed a free throw with 56 seconds left, the Cougars had their final possession as Marshall had a soft bank off the glass with 8.9 seconds left.
McAuley missed a 3-pointer before time expired.
McAuley defeated MND twice in the regular season.