POWELL – Olentangy Liberty girls basketball coach Sam Krafty described his team’s shooting Thursday night as, “a little rushed.”
The Patriots saw visiting Westerville South build a 16-0 lead in the first quarter and couldn’t recover, falling 67-46 in OCC-Buckeye play.
“Typically, I can take a look at a kid’s feet – I don’t even have to watch the ball – I have a pretty good idea if it’s going in or out just based on the rhythm (of) their shooting,” Krafty said. “That was the problem tonight and that’s a credit to their defense and – a little bit – our poise.”
South features four Division I recruits in Gabby Hutcherson, Anyssa Jones, Sommer Pitzer and Peyton Guice – all of which scored in double figures.
Hutcherson and Jones are penned to go to Ohio State, Pitzer to Indiana State and Guice to Ohio University.
It’s been an offseason of change for the Wildcats, who are on their second coach – Erick Herzberg – since the end of last season.
Herzberg has employed a new zone offense that’s found its footing, especially over the past three games.
“They were turning a lot of defensive stops into offensive points,” he said. “Because my defense is so different than what they’ve run their whole lives – it’s an adjustment. I think they’ve gotten better defensively. This was our best (performance) defensively just because of the caliber of team we played.”
The Wildcats opened 14-0 against Olentangy last Friday and held Lexington to just 28 points the following day.
It was also the second straight slow start for the Patriots against another top team in Central Ohio after falling behind 23-10 by the end of the first quarter against Dublin Coffman last Saturday in Cleveland.
“It was just another rocky start for us and in these kind of games – against very good opponents – the game is a lot more fun and a lot easier to manage if you’re in the lead,” Krafty said. “We have to find a way to hang in there through some of these first quarters.”
South knocked down five of its nine threes in the opening quarter alone to build a 21-4 lead at the end of one.
Jones hit three of those opening-quarter triples and finished with a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and six steals.
Guice buried one in the final seconds of the second quarter to give South a 32-11 lead at the break. She was scoreless to that point and finished with 19 points.
Pitzer added 12 points and five steals and Hutcherson added 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0), who have won four straight.
“Most games have been like that – nice and balanced (scoring) – which is good for us,” Herzberg said. “It’s tough for people to cover all of that.”
South ballooned its lead to 41-13 early in the third quarter before Liberty finally got going.
Threes by Gina Santangelo, Teegan Pifher and Betsy Merritt highlighted a 15-2 run that got the Patriots one point closer than South’s initial run.
But another Jones three-pointer stopped the momentum. South pushed the lead back as high as 24 before Liberty was able to chip away again.
Trinity Ramos buried a three in the fourth quarter to pull the Patriots within 16, but they couldn’t get any closer.
Pifher and Levering finished with 11 points apiece and Ramos and Abby Erickson each added nine. Erickson led the Patriots (3-3, 2-1) with 10 rebounds and Levering pulled down nine.
Next up, Liberty hosts old OCC-Central rival Marysville in non-league play Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Buckeye Valley started fast, doubling up visiting Clear Fork in the first quarter, but the visiting Colts took control in the second and third on the way to a 56-43 Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference win Thursday in Delaware.
The Barons were sharp early, outscoring the Colts 14-7 in the opening eight minutes of action. Things changed after that, though, with Clear Fork using a 14-2 second-quarter run to take the lead and an 18-10 third to take control.
Both teams scored 17 points in the fourth to smooth out the scoring summary.
Troy Scowden led BV with 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Max Stokey was also steady, finishing with eight points in the setback, while Dylan Herbert had six.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.