LEWIS CENTER – Shooters gotta shoot as the old saying goes.
The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team has one or two or five of them laying around. So, they shot.
The problem for Delaware Hayes was that they made them.
The Pioneers knocked down eight 3-pointers in the first half and led by as many as 20 before Hayes mounted a furious rally in the second half and Orange held on for a 66-59 win in the second round of the Division I district tournament Friday night in Lewis Center.
Ryan Cutler broke a nearly four-minute scoreless drought from the field with a 3-pointer to tie the game 4-4.
Seven 3s and close to 12 minutes later, the Pioneers held a 34-14 lead.
“We have five guys on our team with 20 or more threes and three of them have 30 or more,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “That’s a lot of firepower spread around the court.”
Cutler knocked down three of those long balls, Bryson Lane added three more and Andre Irvin finished out the barrage with two as the Pioneers took a 36-18 lead into the locker room.
“We just got the ball moving early and when we had shots – we let them fly,” Lane said.
“I wasn’t really feeling it in warmups – I missed everything,” Cutler said. “I missed my first one, but then I made my second one and I was feeling good from there.”
Lane had 22 points and four rebounds, Cutler finished with 22 points and four boards and Irvin added 16 points and five rebounds to lead the 13th-seeded Pioneers (16-7).
“Bryson has a great game feel and he’s having a fantastic year,” Calo said. “There’s a lot of moxie. The moment’s not too big for him. Honestly, as a coach, it’s nice because you don’t have to worry about him because he’s going to make good decisions.”
Paul Burris scored 10 points in the third quarter and Nate Griggs added eight as the Pacers closed within 48-38.
“We had a game plan and in the second half – we did a much better job of getting the ball into places that we wanted to and our scorers into places that they could score,” Hayes coach Jordan Blackburn said.
“The first half I thought we missed a lot of shots where I thought sometimes, we may have gotten it to where we wanted it, but it just kind of rolled around and out. You’re not going to make everything and that’s OK, but you can’t compound it by giving them one in transition.”
Griggs had a game-high 27 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter to help Hayes close within four with 1:28 left. He went a perfect 12-for-12 from the foul line to help his effort.
“When we turned up the pressure, we got some stuff out of it,” Blackburn said. “There were a couple of times where they split our traps. They’re a good team. We had our chances and I don’t think it was too big of a hole to crawl out of – I thought if we had one or two things go a little different – we could have had them.”
Burris backed Griggs with 18 points and nine rebounds and a pair of blocks and Terin Kinsway added 10 points and eight boards for the Pacers (17-7), who were seeded 20th.
Orange also hit its free throws down the stretch. Luke Ballinger hit a pair before Cutler knocked down six straight to help the Pioneers close out the win.
“We have a team that’s hard to come back on because we have ball-handlers and free throw shooters,” Calo said. “(Hayes) did a good job of battling back. It wasn’t perfect in the second half, but ultimately we handled the ball well enough and made enough free throws to (hold on).”
Ballinger led with seven rebounds and three blocks to go with five points and Nik Brannon led with three assists and added five boards to back the Pioneers.
Orange will face top-seeded Dublin Coffman in a district semifinal matchup Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.