Opting for chaos paid off when freshman Meg Spohn buried a half-court heave at the buzzer to send the Olentangy girls basketball team over host Teays Valley 49-47 in the first round of the district tournament Saturday afternoon.
Spohn dribbled across the half-court line and sent her shot, with Courtney Suchan flanking her on the left and Molly Delaney to her right. She let go with Teays Valley’s Reagan Willingham guarding in front.
But, Willingham, making sure not to foul, gave her enough space to release and Spohn took advantage – banking in the game-winner as time expired.
“I’m really proud of them … proud of the way they played,” Olentangy coach Mike Daniels said. “I’m glad that last shot went in.”
Daniels didn’t take a timeout after Willingham’s go-ahead three-pointer from the left corner gave 16th-seeded Teays Valley a one-point lead with 8 seconds left.
“These girls know if there’s limited time – we don’t call timeout when we’re within (one possession),” Daniels said. “I don’t give (our opponents) time to set up. I want to trust my players that they can get to the basket.”
“When she made it – I just thought it was over,” Spohn said. “But, when I got the ball going down the court – I saw tons of hands around me and I couldn’t see anyone to pass to. So, I thought I’d just go for it … and it just went in.”
“Yesterday, we actually practiced half-court shots,” Delaney said. “It definitely paid off. Usually you want it in the senior’s hands, but I wouldn’t have it in anyone’s (hands) other than Meg’s.”
The teams fought back and forth through six lead changes and three ties.
Olentangy held as much as a four-point lead in the final frame thanks to two Grace Pennington free throws sandwiched between baskets by Suchan and Jessica Nation.
The 6-0 rally came after Jaylah Captain’s three-pointer had given TV a brief lead with 6:50 left.
The Vikings, who hit eight triples for the game, got back-to-back Meredith Keel threes – both from the right corner and both off Willingham feeds – to take a 42-39 lead with 2:39 remaining.
Delaney followed with a step-back three on Olentangy’s next possession to tie it up again.
Delaney came through in the clutch again on Olentangy’s ensuing possession. She was fouled rebounding a Nation missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one.
Delaney sank her free throws to give Olentangy a 44-42 lead with 1:21 left.
“Whenever I’m not making shots – I try to find other ways to make myself useful in the game,” she said. “Whether that’s getting assists or rebounds or just working hard on defense – I have to (contribute).”
TV’s Skye Williams tied it on a drive before Nation rebounded a Spohn miss and put it back to give Olentangy a 46-44 lead with 0:27 left to set up the final sequence.
Nation led 29th-seeded Olentangy (11-12) with 15 points, Suchan had 12, Delaney added nine and Pennington chipped in eight.
Olentangy trailed by as much as six before closing to a 23-19 deficit at the break and used an 8-0 run in the third quarter to take a 33-30 lead.
“That was the best week of practice we’ve had all season and it’s clicking now,” Daniels said. “We still missed some bunnies tonight, but we made more than we missed and our defense was pretty good.”
Williams led TV (16-7) with 15 points and Keel added 11.
Olentangy advances to play at 13th-seeded Bishop Watterson in the second round Friday night at 7 p.m.
Also: Watterson 66, Delaware Hayes 22; Hartley 43, Olentangy Orange 31.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.