Claire Mikola picked up the scoring slack with a game-best 18 points and Maria Stack muscled in what proved to be the game-winning hoop with 2.8 seconds left as the shorthanded Olentangy Liberty girls basketball team stayed perfect in league play with a hard-fought 37-36 win over Upper Arlington Friday night in Powell.
The Patriots (14-4, 7-0), with leading scorer Gigi Bower sidelined (illness), looked like they’d run away with things in the early going.
Mikola was a big reason why, pouring in 11 first-quarter points to set the tone. After Elizabeth Hunt got UA on the board, Mikola answered with back-to-back hoops — the first in transition and the second set up by her own steal off the ensuing inbound play to make it 9-2 midway through the opening quarter.
Mikola hit a three later in the quarter before UA (14-3, 6-2) ended on a 5-0 run to claw back into things.
Liberty’s Addy Pyles opened the second with a corner three before Stack scored on a nice up-and-under move to bump the lead to 19-9 with 5:03 left in the half.
The Golden Bears took a turn responding after that, though, closing the quarter on an 11-0 run to set up a back-and-fourth second half. Elizabeth Hunt had a three-point play and Hannah Hunt hit a three-pointer to highlight the push.
Mikola ended the run, scoring 41 seconds into the third quarter, but Upper Arlington used a quick 4-0 burst capped by an Elizabeth Hunt hoop down low to take a 24-23 lead midway through the third.
The Bears still led, 32-30, after three — an edge they maintained until Emma Karagheuzoff calmly canned a deep three-pointer to put the Patriots up 35-34 with 3:15 left.
The lead was short-lived as UA’s Ella Hanky hit a pair of free throws to put her team back up, but Liberty got it back just in time.
After the teams traded possessions down the stretch, both forcing turnovers with tie-ups, the Patriots found themselves down a point with the ball and 17.2 seconds to work with.
The ball found its way to Stack, who, with no choice but to shoot, rolled in a contested hoop with 2.8 seconds left.
UA got a decent look at a potential game-winner, especially considering it had to go the length of the court in less than three seconds to get it, but Quinn Buttermore’s contested lay-in at the buzzer went wide.
The win was Liberty’s second over UA this season, giving it a two-game lead in the chase for a league crown with just two left.
A win next Friday at Hilliard Bradley would give Liberty the OCC-Central title outright. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
Also: Hilliard Darby 42, Olentangy Berlin 38; Worthington Kilbourne 51, Delaware Hayes 47.
Olentangy Berlin 65, Hilliard Darby 55; Whitehall 52, Buckeye Valley 50; Olentangy Liberty 57, Upper Arlington 45; Olentangy Orange 57, Dublin Coffman 48; Delaware Hayes 58, Worthington Kilbourne 48.