POWELL – Teegan Pifher talked about staying in the moment after scoring a game-high 22 points to go with nine rebounds to lead the Olentangy Liberty girls basketball team to a 49-36 win over rival Olentangy Saturday night in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Pifher had a lot of moments, particularly in the third quarter when she scored 15 points, including all 12 of a 12-4 rally that saw the Patriots extend their lead.
“Sometimes I get in my own head and in the third quarter I just controlled what I could control and just went out and played the game I love,” Pifher said. “For me personally, it’s not getting in my own head and just knowing that the next one is a new shot and being in the present moment.”
Olentangy had pulled within three points on a Meg Spohn bucket with 6:57 left in the third after falling behind 16-2 in the first quarter.
Pifher buried a 3 on the left wing to start a sequence where she scored five times on five possessions, bookending it with a 3 from the left corner to push Liberty’s lead to 36-25 with 4:12 left in the third.
Olentangy never got closer than eight the rest of the way and trailed 47-34 at the end of the frame.
Spohn scored in the lane with 5:36 left in the fourth to cut Olentangy’s deficit to 11, but Trinity Ramos drove for a layup on Liberty’s next possession to account for the final score.
“We were still looking to score – I don’t know why (we) didn’t shoot it,” Krafty said. “We’re still dancing – that’s the bottom line. You do what you have to do.”
Olentangy turned the ball over on its next possession and Liberty took the air out of the ball from there. Liberty didn’t take a shot until the 2:00 mark of the period – one of two shots the team took down the stretch.
“I think it was a little bit of misunderstanding and a little bit of a tired brain,” Olentangy coach Kate Cummings said. “They shoot the ball well, so you’re going to put yourself in a bigger hole if you foul too early.”
Kelly Levering hit four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points. Her first gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead that Pifher pushed to five on the next possession and Liberty never trailed.
Olivia Margolies got Olentangy on the board with 5:28 left in the first.
“We turned the ball over a lot,” Cummings said. “Their pressure bothered our young guards and we ended up turning the ball over too much. But once we settled down – switched up some defenses a little bit – we got a couple of easy buckets.”
Abby Erickson provided a spark off the bench, scoring back-to-back baskets and three out of four as Liberty built its early lead. Erickson finished with six points and eight rebounds.
“Every time we play them it seems like that’s how we start,” Krafty said. “We knew they’d fight back. But we withstood it.”
Jessie Barna had five assists and Trinity Ramos had five steals to lead the 10th-seeded Patriots (16-7).
“I really believe in my kids,” Krafty said. “When we needed Teegan to step up and make big plays – she did. Kelly hit some big shots tonight. Abby Erickson came off the bench and sparked that run out to 16-2.”
Margolies got Olentangy going late in the first with a pair of baskets. She turned the latter into a 3-point play to cut Olentangy’s deficit to 16-7 after one.
Bridget Stafford knocked down a pair of free throws and Grace Maddox and Dani Beidelman each added a basket to help Olentangy go 6-0 and close the half down 24-19.
“We’ve been working on building confidence across the board and trying to establish roles where they feel confident,” Cummings said. “We knew this was going to be a tough battle.”
Margolies had 16 points and four rebounds and Spohn added eight points, four boards and four steals to lead 32nd-seeded Olentangy (10-12).
“Obviously, our seed was so low, so there weren’t many choices,” Cummings said. “I knew our girls would want to play well in this game and that’s all you can really ask for at the end of the year.”
Next up, Liberty hosts 29th-seeded Delaware Hayes in the second round Friday night at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.