Patriots fall to Tigers in district final


COLUMBUS – They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Olentangy Liberty girls basketball coach Sam Krafty isn’t having any of it.

He put his team on a path to get back to the Division I district title game. It just so happened that once they got there, top-seeded Pickerington Central was waiting for a rematch from last year.

The Tigers rolled from the start with an 18-0 first quarter to win 56-21 Saturday morning at Ohio Dominican University’s Alumni Hall.

“I’m a positive believer,” Krafty said. “I thought – why not take another shot? Get here, it’s a big stage, it’s a great experience for our younger players – it keeps them hungrier in the offseason.”

Maliya Perry had 23 points, seven rebounds, a couple of assists and a pair of steals to lead Central to its fourth consecutive district title.

“She’s going to Auburn for a reason,” Central coach Johnathan Hedgepath said. “I’m just fortunate to have her and Madison Greene in the backcourt. We’re missing Nicole Stephens (ankle) … everybody had to contribute with the loss of her.”

Greene, a Penn State-signee, and Jocelyn Tate added eight points apiece with Greene picking up eight steals. Jada Tate chipped in with six points and six rebounds for the Tigers (25-1).

Liberty missed all 12 shots from the floor and a pair of free throws and turned the ball over six times in the first quarter.

“We’ve always tried to set our tone on the defensive side of the ball,” Hedgepath said. “A lot of high school teams focus on the offensive side of the ball. Today, the detail was on the defensive side. I tried to take advantage of our length.”

“They were physical,” Krafty said. “Early, we got looks … we just didn’t make any of them.”

Teegan Pifher had nine points and five rebounds and Abby Erickson went for seven points and six boards to lead the 10th-seeded Patriots (18-8).

“That was our third district title game in five years and I’m really proud about that,” Krafty said. “I know in the early years, there were classes that went through that didn’t win a tournament game. Now, it’s a disappointment if you don’t at least get here … at least in my eyes and some of our kids’ and coaches’ eyes.

“You want to get a path to get here and I liked the path that we took to get here. The unfortunate thing is that the state champs are sitting there waiting.”

So, why would Krafty choose to play a rematch against a team that won last year’s district final 54-12?

“There’s a group of about five teams and the only ones that can beat those five teams are those five teams,” he said. “Pick Central, Reynoldsburg, Newark, Coffman, (Westerville) South and Gahanna – those six were the best of the best this year.

“We’re as good as anybody else. There are four brackets. You’re gonna face somebody that’s really, really good.”

He added that picking another bracket meant playing one of those teams in a district semifinal.

Hedgepath understood Krafty’s thinking, too.

“You gotta go somewhere and (they) played us last year,” he said. “(Krafty is) familiar with what we do. Understanding those things gives you an advantage or it’s easier to prepare when you’ve already done it before.”

Central will face Westerville South in a regional semifinal Tuesday night at 6:15 p.m. at Otterbein University’s Rike Center.

Olentangy Liberty’s Abby Erickson puts up a shot between Pickerington Central’s Jada Tate (5) and Jocelyn Tate (15) during the first half of Saturday’s Division I district final at Ohio Dominican. Liberty’s Abby Erickson puts up a shot between Pickerington Central’s Jada Tate (5) and Jocelyn Tate (15) during the first half of Saturday’s Division I district final at Ohio Dominican. Ben Stroup | Gazette

By Michael Rich

For the Gazette

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected].

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