COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kelsey Mitchell saved the best for last.
The Associated Press Ms. Basketball scored 30 points, and Carlie Pogue added 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead top-ranked Cincinnati Princeton to its second big-school championship with a 61-55 victory over North Canton Hoover on Saturday night.
"I can't speak right now," the future Ohio State player said. "I'm speechless."
Princeton (28-2) improved to 2 for 2 in the state tournament, also winning the title in its only other appearance in 1987.
Mitchell scored 15 points in the first quarter and then became less of an offensive force as her team never trailed after she fueled a 9-2 start. She also had four rebounds and three assists and three steals.
Asked the turning point of the game, Hoover (26-3) Coach Abbey Allerding smiled and said, "Kelsey Mitchell."
With Mitchell leading the way, Princeton led 19-13 after a quarter and maintained it for most of the way.
"In the first quarter we came out very confident. We were playing our game," said Princeton coach Jill Phillips. "They made a little run at us in the second quarter (to cut the lead to two points) and in that last minute we went back up seven. That gave us momentum going into the half. It had started to shift a little bit.
"Then we just did what we needed to do down the stretch to close it out."
Down as many as 14, Hoover cut the lead to four with 17 seconds left.
But then Mitchell was fouled on the inbounds pass and, of course, hit both shots to end the drama.
The tone was set at the outset, however.
"The first quarter really killed us," Allerding said.
Princeton led 31-24 after a wild and entertaining opening half.
Mitchell had a huge first period, hitting 4 of 6 shots from the field, 1 of 2 3-pointers and all six of her free throws. She came out for the second quarter with a large Band-Aid on her chin and cheek.
Just as suddenly as she took over the game, Hoover's defense forced her to step into the background. Hoover went to great pains to have a defender in her face at all times, denying her the ball on return passes from teammates.
Hoover, which hit just five of its first 18 shots from the field, finally found some traction midway through the second quarter. Trailing 24-13, Hoover scored on five of its next seven possessions to pull to 26-24 on a three-point play by Kaylee Stroemple, who led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
But Princeton finished strong. Top sub Jada Ballew poured in a 3 from the right wing, Mitchell stole the ball at the other end and then led a frantic race down the court, shifting gears and slipping in a layup with her off her right hand to give Princeton a 31-24 lead at the half.
The teams traded physical play and points in the third quarter.
Princeton finished it with a six-point advantage, with Stroemple carrying the load on a 6-0 run to close out the period.
With the lead at five points early in the final quarter after a Kelsey Lensman free throw, Princeton spurted again. Chelsea Mitchell — Kelsey's twin sister, also headed to Ohio State — started it with a 3 from the right wing, in front of her bench. While Kelsey Mitchell was hitting three free throws, Julie Worley scored inside for Hoover.
But then Corneisha Henderson hit a layup in traffic and Pogue took a pass, turned and flipped in a 15-foot jumper and all of a sudden the Princeton lead was back to 55-41 after the 11-2 run.
Princeton was ahead 59-50 after Kelsey Mitchell made two foul shots with 1:46 left, but Hoover pulled to within four points on a 3 by Worley, who had 18 points.
But then Kelsey Mitchell coolly stepped to the line and hit both shots while the crowd at Ohio State's Value City Arena was in a frenzy.
"I played all right," she said. "Down the second half I got a little tired. But me and my teammates came through to win this."