In the end, Malina Howard did what she always does: She strapped the Twinsburg Tigers to her back and lead her team to victory.
Howard scored 28 points to led the Tigers back to Columbus after a 54-37 victory over the Solon Comets Friday in the Canton Regional Final.
Twinsburg, the defending state champs, competes for their second state championship next week.
"This is a really special senior class," said Twinsburg Coach Julie Solis. "They've had their sights on this for a long time."
Solon played tough, keeping it close, 22-20, at halftime. Howard, who had 12 points in the first half, should have had more, as she struggled from the free throw line.
Twinsburg scored 10 unanswered points to start the game and led 16-6 after the first quarter.
But Solon battled back in the second quarter, scoring 14 points and holding the Tigers to 6 points. Kristen Confroy led the way with 7 points in the quarter.
Solon Coach Trish Kruse said the Comets did a good job of playing team defense, forcing turnovers and keeping pressure on the ball in the second quarter.
But Howard came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Scoring 16 of her 28 points. Kruse said the defense broke down, the Comets let Howard get into position too easily and couldn't extend any scoring runs.
Solis said getting the ball to Howard is key to the Tigers' success.
"She's got to touch it every time we go down the court," Solis said.
Kruse said Solon was led by a special senior class -- Jamie Gluesing, Amanda Bevington and Kristen Low -- that played unselfishly and helped rebuild the program.
"I think we want to remember this feeling," Kruse said. "We want to come back here next year and come out on top."
SCORING SUMMARY1st 2nd 3rd 4th FINAL Twinsburg Tigers 16 6 17 15 54 Solon Comets 6 14 8 9 37
SOLON SCORINGPlayer Points Kristen Confroy 12
Martha Thompson 8
Jaime Gluesing 7
Alexis Gray 4
Jordan Bekelja 3 Kristen Low 2 Amanda Bevington 1
TWINSBURG SCORINGPlayer Points Malina Howard 28
Ashley Morrissette 9
Leah Fechko 8
LaShawna Gatewood 5