COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Reedsville Eastern was hanging on and Jenna Burdette knew she had to make a difference.
She did more than that. She took over the game.
Burdette scored 20 of her 24 points in the second half — accounting for all but seven of her team’s points over that span — to carry top-ranked Eastern past No. 3 Zanesville Rosecrans 49-38 in the Division IV girls state title game on Saturday.
“Well, I knew my first half had started out slowly. We were all a little nervous,” the senior said. “I knew I had to step up both offensively and defensively. I just knew what I had to do and was able to do it at the end.”
Burdette, an Associated Press first-team All-Ohioan and co-player of the year in the division, time and again made big shots and big plays as Eastern (27-1) got redemption for a semifinal loss a year ago in the school’s only previous appearance at the state tournament.
Over the first 14:59 of the second half, Burdette scored 20 of the Eagles’ 22 points. She scored her team’s first five points of the third quarter before teammate Jordan Parker hit a rebound follow at the 3:36 mark to cap a 7-0 run that swelled the lead to 29-16.
Burdette then scored all of her team’s points until Parker hit two foul shots with 1:01 remaining to push the lead to 46-38.
None were bigger than four midway through the fourth quarter.
The Bishops (27-2) pulled within 39-37 on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Kloie Johnson at the 4:27 mark.
Burdette then drove to the basket and was fouled, hitting both shots.
After a Rosecrans miss, Burdette went to the hoop again, trying to draw a foul. Instead, in heavy traffic, she muscled her way through the paint and banked in a shot to make it 43-37.
Rosecrans coach Gale Kirkbride said his team tried to focus on staying in front of Burdette, cutting off her driving lanes and closing fast when she had an open shot. For the most part, he was pleased with his players’ effort.
“She’s a great player, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I really thought we did a heck of a job on her, to be honest with you. She got on a little roll there in the second half.”
Burdette hit one more foul shot and then made way for her teammates. Parker, Katie Keller and Maddie Rigsby hit five of six free throws over the final 61 seconds to hold off the Bishops.
“We tried to calm down every foul shot they would take, take a breath or whatever,” Burdette said. “We knew what we had to do on offense. We knew we could penetrate and kick or keep going. I don’t know, it just worked.”
At the half, Eastern led 22-16 while Burdette — averaging 15.5 points a game — had four points on just 2 of 8 shooting from the field. She was 0 for 3 from behind the arc.
John Burdette, Eastern’s head coach and Jenna’s father, said he wasn’t even aware that his daughter wasn’t more productive.
But when the pressure was turned up in the second half, he knew it was vital that the Eagles get the ball to her.
“At the end of the game in the huddle I said we want to get the ball back in Jenna’s hands and let her either get to the bucket, get a foul, or make the right passes,” he said.
Burdette ended up 9 of 17 from the field, 2 of 6 on 3-pointers and 4 of 6 at the line. She also had four rebounds, an assist and three steals.
Kirkbride said Jenna Burdette seemed to turn every 50-50 play into a plus for her team.
“It seemed like all the bounces kind of went (her way), but you make your own bounces. We were in position. We hit the ball and she was able to come back up with it,” he said. “(She) just broke our back a couple of times, where we went from steals to her picking it back up and getting a layup or a shot — and making it, of course.”
Molly Nash had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Bishops, who were shooting for their fourth state championship but first since 1992.
Eastern had been to the state tournament a year ago but lost in the semifinals. That was a loss that burned in the minds of the Eagles.
“I had one of our freshmen look at me while Rosecrans was getting their medals and she said, ‘Jordan, this doesn’t even feel real,’” Parker said. “It really doesn’t because this was a goal and you try to get to it — and we did it! So it’s really great.”
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