Notre Dame Academy's Ariel Cummings celebrates after the Eagles defeated Newark 75-59 during a Division I state basketball semifinal Friday in Columbus. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
COLUMBUS — Ariel Cummings is the niece of Terry Cummings, and she found a way to channel the former DePaul and 18-year NBA star in Friday night’s Division I girls basketball semifinal.
With the 6-foot-3 Cummings posting career bests of 28 points and 14 rebounds in a dominant display in the paint, Notre Dame Academy cruised to a 75-59 victory over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Newark at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
The 10th-ranked Eagles (26-3) also got solid play from senior guards Mariah Copeland and Bre Hampton-Bey, who added 13 and 11 points, respectively, as Notre Dame won its 19th consecutive game.
IN PICTURES: Notre Dame Academy 75, Newark 59
“I just feel like I came to this school for a specific reason, and that was to go to states,” Cummings said. “I feel like all of that energy has been balled up in me, and it kind of came out today.”
The Eagles will play Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame (25-4) in today’s 8:30 p.m. state championship game.
The Cougars, who are five-time state champions (2004 and 2006-09) beat Canton McKinley 51-33 on Friday.
The Eagles lost a regular-season meeting with Mount Notre Dame, falling 57-39 on Nov. 27.
Notre Dame, playing in its fifth state final four in six seasons, returns to the title game for the second time in three seasons. It lost 44-38 to West Chester Lakota West in 2015.
In earning their second trip to the D-I final, the Eagles were locked in and dominant from the start, never trailing after sophomore Ashley Barron (eight points, five rebounds) scored off an inbounds pass to put ND ahead 5-4 three minutes into the game.
Cummings’ first points came on a power layup 38 seconds later for a 7-4 lead, and the suddenly confident Eagles were off and running.
“Our kids did a great job of taking away what Newark likes to do best, for the most part for the entire game,” Notre Dame coach Travis Galloway said. “We did a great job getting the 50-50 balls, and we kept momentum the entire game because of that.
“We had big stops when we needed them, and we had great offensive possessions when we needed them. And, we hit some big shots. It was just a great, great team win. A lot of people stepped up, and I couldn’t be prouder of this group of girls.”
Cummings — who had to sit out the first 11 games of the regular season after her transfer from Ottawa Hills — did much of the early damage with 13 points and seven rebounds in the first half.
For the game, Cummings was 12-for-17 from the field.
“Obviously it was an unbelievable performance by Ariel,” Galloway said. “I had a feeling [earlier] today in the walk-through, and I think our team did too. She had so much energy, and she finished everything in our walk-through.
“I thought, ‘Oh man, if she plays like that, we are going to be tough to defend. She gained a ton of confidence from our regional final game, and she knew with [Krisah Lewis] down with an injury, she was going to get a ton of playing time. She responded unbelievably. To do what she did in a state semifinal game is very impressive.”
The Eagles led 17-9 after one quarter, and 33-16 at halftime. Also contributing mightily to that impressive first-half start was fourth-year starting guard Copeland, who mixed three 3-pointers into her 11 points before the break.
“This was a good feeling,” Hampton-Bey said. “Me and my teammates have been working really hard to get where we wanted to go, and we were just going to leave it all on the floor.
“The biggest difference was staying focused and working on [Newark’s] tendencies. We were taking away their ability to get to the basket, and their second chances off of rebounds.”
Cummings had been used in a post rotation with 6-foot sophomore Lewis since joining the team, but the post was all hers Friday after Lewis suffered a right arm fracture earlier this week in a fall in her home.
To date, Cummings’ best game was her 12-point, 11-rebound effort in a 48-41 regional-final win over Berea-Midpark on March 11.
Her emergence, with the help of superb entry passes from Hampton-Bey (six assists) and Copeland (four assists), had to catch Newark and coach J.R. Shumate off guard. They had no evidence of Cumming’s potential before last Saturday.
“I think we always had confidence in her,” Hampton-Bey said. “It was just [a matter of] her having confidence in herself to take the shots and put them in.”
Notre Dame got a momentum-boosting 3-pointer from backup guard Erin Fankhauser just before the first-half buzzer.
Although Newark (28-1) made small inroads occasionally in trying to mount a comeback, the Eagles had an answer at every turn.
Notre Dame’s biggest leads were 22 points (48-26), after a Jala Johnson 3-pointer with 3:31 left in the third quarter, and 23 points (68-45) following Cummings’ three-point play with 3:19 remaining in the game.
“The game got off to a rough start for us,” Shumate said. “They were very physical, and it shows in the rebounding numbers. That was probably the decisive number — the rebounding edge they had.
“They scored a lot of baskets inside, and that’s not typical for us, giving up easy baskets inside. Whenever you give up easy shots in the paint, you’re going to pay a price for it. We didn’t play our best game tonight, and Notre Dame played very well.”
Notre Dame was 26-of-58 (45 percent) from the field, including 5-of-14 on 3-pointers, and 18-of-30 at the foul line. The Eagles outrebounded Newark 46-29 margin, with Hampton-Bey grabbing 10 boards.
The Wildcats were 22-of-57 (39 percent) from the field, including 4-of-19 on 3-pointers. They were 11-of-14 at the line.
Gabby Stare topped Newark with 16 points.
Notre Dame Academy’s Ariel Cummings, center, grabs the ball away from Newark’s Gabby Stare, right, during a Division I girls basketball state semifinal Friday. Cummings had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Eagles. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Notre Dame Academy's Maelyn Kizer battles Newark's Olivia Fox for a loose ball. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH