DELAWARE – The Olentangy Berlin girls basketball team rallied back from an 11-point deficit in the second half to tie it up early in the fourth.
But, visiting Bloom-Carroll got some key defensive stops and made its free throws down the stretch to knock off host Berlin 53-46 in the first round of the Division II district tournament Tuesday night.
Jessica Nation scored 14 of her 18 points in the third quarter, including all 11 points down the stretch as the 12th-seeded Bears outscored BC 11-5 to cut their deficit to 38-33.
She was held scoreless in the first half.
“She’s a really good player,” BC coach Chad Little said. “She’s a handful … we did a really nice job on her in the first half. But, to her credit, we had a hard time stopping her in the second.”
Nation added a basket early in the fourth and Courtney Suchan found Jenna Boucher on the left wing with a skip pass to tie it at 38 with 5:51 remaining.
“They did a good job of locking up the paint and we didn’t do a good job of attacking it strong,” Berlin coach Megan Beidelman said. “We started attacking the paint and (didn’t) force shots. I think getting to the paint more allowed for more open looks and it spread their defense out.”
Maddy Wyant knocked down a pair of free throws on the next Bulldog possession and, after a Berlin miss, Makenzie Mason added two more to push the lead to 42-38 with 5:41 left.
“You could see our kids collectively take a breath,” Little said. “You take the lead and that kind of dictates what you can do the rest of the game. I thought that stretch … gave us a breath of fresh air and we were able to calm down and finish it out.”
BC, the 14-seed, went 11 of 15 from the line in the fourth quarter to salt the game away.
“They hit free throws and we had a hard time forcing a steal,” Beidelman said. “You could tell that they had three seniors on the floor.”
Mason had 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals with eight points coming in the final period to lead the Bulldogs (13-10), who won their first district title last season.
Wyant hit three 3-pointers and scored 15 points – adding three assists and three steals to her stat line – and Nikki Bradbury scored 11 points on the strength of three 3s for BC.
Suchan had six points off a pair of triples in the first quarter that helped the Bears to an 11-5 start.
But BC’s defense held Berlin to just five points over the final 12 and a half minutes of the half to take a 26-16 lead into the locker room.
“They shot it really well early,” Little said. “We got out of the zone and went to man and that at least took away a lot of the looks at the perimeter that they were getting. It allowed us to stretch a little bit of a lead there going into halftime.”
Nation knocked down a free throw and Boggess buried a 3-pointer to start the third before a Mason basket and a Wyant 3-pointer pushed the Bulldog lead to 33-22 with 5:03 left in the period.
“They made adjustments and we didn’t do a good job of adjusting to what they did,” Beidelman said. “This whole year has been a year of learning. I think they were the better team. They won the 50-50 battle in the first half and I think digging ourselves in a hole in the first half killed us.”
Nation had seven rebounds, Maddie Goodman finished with nine points, Suchan has six boards and six assists and Gwynne Kiener added five boards and three assists for the Bears (13-10), who won six of their last seven regular season games before falling in their first tournament game.
BC will travel to sixth-seeded Beechcroft in the second round Friday night at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]