While it more resembled a mosh pit than a girls basketball game, Olentangy took advantage at the free throw line.
The host Braves turned the game with its defense and free throw shooting on their way to a 57-46 victory over New Albany in the second round of the Division I district tournament on Saturday.
Freshman Whitney Stafford made 15 of 16 free throws and finished with a game-high 24 points, adding seven rebounds, five steals and four assists to pace Olentangy.
The Braves (14-9), seeded 18th, advance to play top-seeded Pickerington Central in a district semifinal on Wednesday.
“It was a very physical game,” Stafford said. “My free throws definitely helped – I’ve been shooting free throws very well this season. But I think it was a team effort. We got hard on them on defense.”
Trailing the 21st-seeded Eagles 14-10 in the second quarter, Olentangy adjusted its defense.
“We picked them up a little deeper,” Olentangy coach Jamie Edwards said. “We were trying to get it out of (Izzy Arguelles’) hands. (We were) trying to make her throw it over the top and then jumping the back side. We didn’t give up any backside buckets until the fourth quarter where they got their last bucket. For the most part, I think we shut their 3-pointers down.”
It paid off for the Braves, who had seven steals during an 18-4 rally to close the half with a 28-18 lead.
Camryn Cummings’ three blocks in the first quarter helped Olentangy keep it close. She finished with four for the game to go with 10 points and six rebounds.
The Braves got key 3-pointers from Cummings, Kate Mosher, Addi Shaffner and Caitlin Ronk along the way and Mia Chirpas provided a spark off the bench with three points, four rebounds and a pair of assists in limited time.
Mosher finished with six points, four rebounds and three steals and Shaffner and Ally Thomas had three steals apiece for Olentangy.
The Eagles (11-13) outrebounded the Braves 53-25. Libby Henry had 12 boards, Mary Kidwell had nine and Arguelles finished with eight.
“We knew we were going to have a hard time with rebounding – especially with (Henry),” Edwards said. “I think she averages a double-double. She definitely got her 10 rebounds today.”
Arguelles scored 11 of her team-high 16 points in the second half and Henry added 15 points.
“The second quarter has been an issue for us all season, quite honestly,” New Albany coach Phil Sikorski said. “They picked up the pressure and we took a bit of a breath. Once it started going in (their) direction, it’s tough to get it back. The physicality that they brought tonight, we’ve struggled against that in the past. We’ve got to fix that in the future.”