COLUMBUS – The Olentangy Orange girls basketball team whittled a 17-point deficit down to five late in the third quarter.
But the Pioneers “ran out of gas”, falling 60-39 to New Albany in the opening round of the Roosters Stallion Holiday Classic Thursday afternoon at St. Francis DeSales High School.
“They went on an 11-0 run in about 40 seconds (in the second quarter) and that really hurt us,” Orange coach Bob Scott said. “We battled back and had it down to five and then we got in foul trouble in a couple of key positions and ran out of gas. When you have to battle back like that you tend to run out of gas and then their size takes over underneath.”
Maddie Erickson paced the third-quarter rally, scoring the first seven points of a 15-3 run. Anna Grabau found her on the left wing for a three-pointer to start the run. She added a basket and a pair of free throws.
“When she’s on the floor – she does good things,” Scott said. “We’ve just gotta keep her on the floor.”
Madi Riley scored a pair of baskets during the rally – the latter of which cut it to 40-35 with less than two minutes left in the frame.
Olivia Gittens beat the period buzzer with a short jumper as the Eagles scored the last four points of the third to take a 46-37 lead. New Albany ran away with it from there.
“We’re a good basketball team, but we’re so inconsistent,” New Albany coach Jeff Blunt said. “We play really good quarters, then we play a rotten one. You saw it there in the third quarter. They got back at us a little bit and we were able to respond in the fourth. Really – for us – it’s going to be about consistency.”
The Eagles scored the first 14 points of the fourth to put it out of reach for good.
Gittens knocked down six three-pointers and scored 22 points to lead the Eagles (6-3), who have won three straight games.
New Albany had a decisive size advantage featuring Josie Smith, who stands 6-foot-1, and Maddy Hofmann, who is 6-foot-2. Smith is signed on to play at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Smith scored 10 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end. Hofmann came off the bench to score 12 points and pull down nine boards for the Eagles, who held a 56-31 advantage on the glass.
But it was a flurry of steals that opened the game up in the second quarter. The Eagles took a 16-13 lead on a Smith put-back.
Gittens buried a three-pointer off a steal, then Kelis Brown stole the inbound pass and got it to Sophie Orsinelli for a basket. Orsinelli then followed with another triple off a Gittens steal to give the Eagles a 24-13 lead.
“We knew if we pressured and kept the pace going – we were going to get some opportunities to shoot,” Blunt said. “We got a couple steals and a couple of finishes off those steals and all of a sudden boom, boom, boom and you’ve got a lead.”
Orange opened the game 5-0 off a Grabau three and an Erickson basket. But the teams were knotted 13-13 by the end of the first.
Erickson finished with 11 points, Duffy added 10, Grabau chipped in nine points and led with seven boards and Riley finished with eight points to lead the Pioneers (2-6).
Orange finishes up at DeSales against the Ringwood Hawks from Melbourne, Australia today at 3:05 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.