COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Naz Hillmon scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as Gates Mills Gilmour Academy held on for its first title with a 56-54 win against Versailles in the girls Division III final at Value City Arena on Saturday.
“Give credit to my teammates,” Hillmon said. “They got up and down the court whether it was on offense or defense.”
Hillmon, a 6-foot-2 junior, was named The Associated Press 2017 player of the year in Division III.
“She’s an amazing post player,” said Versailles forward Danielle Winner, who led the Tigers with 13 points.
Hillmon put Gilmour (24-6) on top 39-37 at the start of the fourth quarter Saturday. She then gave the Lancers their largest lead, 51-41, with 2:50 left in the game.
Gilmour led 56-50 with 16.8 seconds left but Versailles (26-4) got to within 56-52 on two free throws by Danielle Winner and Lindsey Winner’s put-back with 4.7 seconds left.
Versailles forced a forced a turnover and Kami McEldowney made it 56-54 with 2.5 seconds left but Versailles couldn’t get a shot off after intercepting an inbound pass.
“We didn’t have enough time,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “We needed more than two or three more seconds.
“These girls did a great job of staying together and coming back. I know everybody thought the game was over with a minute to go.”
The 37-37 score after three quarters was befitting the closeness of the game. Versailles led 26-23 to start the third quarter but Gilmour scored the next five points and took a 37-33 lead before Lindsey Winner and Danielle Winner hit field goals to tie the score.
The first half was tight with the score being tied for 5:10 of the 16 minutes and there were five lead changes.
Versailles eventually pulled away for its biggest lead with just 37 seconds left in the half when McEldowney hit a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 26-21 lead, but Hillmon picked up loose ball underneath the Gilmour basket and scored with 11 seconds left for the 26-23 score at the break.
The game remained in doubt until the end, but Gilmour coach Bob Beutel had confidence in his players.
“They really kept their focus and made the most of every lesson learned this season,” he said.