NEWARK, Ohio (WCMH) — High school and college teams across the country had their seasons cut short last year because of the pandemic — including the Newark Wildcats.
They were able to play in their third Final 4 in school history, and trying to make their fist ever title game appearance.
But the wildcats have played their way back to the Final 4 for a second year in a row after beating Dublin Coffman 77-75 on a game-winning buzzer beater layup by Gwen Stare in the regional final.
“I think we have great chemistry and we all like each other too,” Stare said. “We’re all confident and I have faith in our whole team and each other. We’ve played together for a while too, so I think that’s been really important.”
Unlike last year, the Wildcats are actually going to get a chance to play for a spot in the title game.
“We know what we missed last year so just to be back here it’s just been a really fun season,” junior Maddie Vejsicky said.
As the coronavirus swept across Ohio, the OHSAA made the decision to cancel the girls tournament just minutes before the first Final 4 game. And just like that, Newark’s season, and the high school careers of 4 seniors, came to an unexpected end.
“We’re just that more motivated because of our alums. We’re doing it for them and us obviously,” senior Emma Shumate said. “We’ve all worked pretty hard here the past four years and we want to get it done.”
Newark will play its semifinal game against Akron Archbishop Hoban without head coach J.R. Shumate who was ejected in the regional semifinals and consequently suspended for two games. But he says this season, and this team, aren’t about him.
“We have people that trust each other, that love each other and we’ll go out and know exactly what we’re trying to do,” Shumate said.
And what they’re trying to do is win their first state title in school history.