POWELL – Olentangy Liberty girls basketball coach Sam Krafty is living something of a Groundhog Day. Fortunately for him, though, when the buzzer sounded Friday night something other than ‘I Got You, Babe’ was playing.
The Patriots built a lead in the third quarter and held on to beat Westerville North 39-35 in OCC-Buckeye play Friday night in Powell.
“We lost two games just like that this year,” Krafty said. “Against (Hilliard) Bradley and Olentangy, we came out of the locker room and built a lead and then squandered it.”
Kelly Levering went for a double-double with points at a premium to lead the Patriots to a win. She had 16 points and 10 rebounds and went 8-for-8 at the foul line.
Levering opened the second half with a basket and a steal on the other end and Trinity Ramos assisted on three-pointers by Teegan Pifher and Gina Santangelo in an 8-0 run to start the second half.
The Patriots (4-3, 2-2) held North scoreless for the 5 minutes, 21 seconds of the second half until Alyssa Wright found Nia Hassey underneath to cut the deficit to 23-16.
“Obviously, it wasn’t our best offensive game, but what really got us through was our defense and our rebounding,” Levering said. “Those are our two main points of focus for how to win.”
Levering came back with a basket and added two free throws on the following possession to help the Patriots build their lead to 11 with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
But Wright scored with 10 seconds left and Imari Martin put back a miss on the first possession of the fourth quarter to cut Liberty’s lead to 27-20.
Emoni Finch had two steals and Wright added a third on Liberty’s first three possessions of the fourth quarter as the Warriors pulled within 27-24 with 6:02 remaining.
“I wasn’t happy with our decision-making for one, but when they went to their press … it should not have given us problems,” Krafty said. “Unfortunately, it did. We had a couple of kids run from it instead of running to it.”
But every time North would get it to a one-possession game, Liberty had a response. Caitlin Splain knocked down a three-pointer from the corner off a Jordan Rich feed to give the Patriots a 34-28 lead with 3:04 left after Ramos broke free of the North press.
Martin and Charia Smith scored on consecutive possessions to pull the Warriors within two, but Levering kept Liberty afloat with four free throws before Sadie Lucas sealed it with a free throw with 6.3 seconds left.
“Eventually, both Trinity and Kelly did a great job of handling (the press) and Kelly made some key free throws down the stretch,” Krafty said.
Wright finished with 10 points and Martin added eight points and three assists to lead the Warriors (6-2, 3-1).
Liberty is back at it tonight, hosting Dublin Coffman in non-league play. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.