LEWIS CENTER – It should have been over at 36-21 with a little more than 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
But the Olentangy girls basketball team did the little things and Kennedie Doup knocked down a 3-pointer to start the rally then hit another to put her team on top for good in a 49-46 win over rival Olentangy Liberty to open OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday night.
“They made plays and they made shots,” Olentangy coach Kate Cummings said. “They made big shots. It just fueled some energy and got (Liberty) on (its) heels just enough. They made plays. There was nothing special that I could do – they did it.”
“(Cummings) told us that we were doing the big things, but we weren’t doing the little things,” Doup said. “Those little things start adding up when we’re hitting shots. Playing defense and diving on the floor – those were our main goals this game – be physical, and we were.”
It was a nice piece of revenge for Olentangy, which lost all three games to the Patriots last season, including one in the first round of the Division I district tournament that ended its season.
Doup scored 12 points – all on 3-pointers – to lead Olentangy, which held the Patriots without a point for a little more than four minutes and without a field goal for a little more than five minutes as it whittled a 15-point deficit to four.
Karmen Long scored back-to-back baskets and then fed Cami McCulty, who buried a three to cut Liberty’s lead to 37-33 with 1:05 left in the third quarter. Long finished with seven points and nine rebounds for Olentangy (3-1, 1-0).
“They made a couple of hustle plays that really swung the momentum,” Liberty coach Sam Krafty said. “We got comfortable when we got the lead. You can see in stretches we play really well and you can see in stretches we really don’t.”
The Patriots played a little defense to build their lead in the first place, holding Olentangy to just three free throws over a span of 7 minutes, 17 seconds bridging halftime and the third quarter.
Bridget Stafford buried a 3-pointer with 5:02 left in the second quarter to give Olentangy an 18-17 lead and then it was radio silence.
Teegan Pifher was limited in her playing time, but managed to make an impact in the first half. She converted a three-point play to give Liberty the lead on the next possession.
Later, she knocked down three with time winding down on the clock to give the Patriots a 28-21 lead at the break.
Liberty came out firing in the third quarter, too. Caitlin Splain buried a pair of triples from each corner sandwiched around a Jordan Rich basket to push the lead to 36-21 with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
“We are a team that shoots a lot of perimeter shots,” Krafty said. “The good side was in the third quarter (and) how quickly we built that lead. When you look at the last possession of the second quarter and the first few possessions of the third – we took a tight game and ran it up to 15 pretty quick.”
The Patriots (1-2, 0-1) were led by Kelly Levering, who scored all but three of Liberty’s points the rest of the way. She finished with 20 for the game to go with 10 rebounds, which were both game-highs.
Gina Santangelo scored all of her nine points from behind the arc, including one with a little more than 7 minutes left that gave Liberty a 42-36 lead and answered a Stafford three on the other end.
Dani Beidelman found Stafford to tie the game at 44 with 2:01 left. After a turnover, Beidelman rebounded a missed basket and fed to Meg Spohn on the wing, who drove and kicked it out to Doup in the left corner for the go-ahead three with 59 seconds remaining.
“There’s some unsung heroes,” Cummings said. “(Beidelman) makes all of the plays that don’t show up in the stats. The same thing with Bailey (Cummings). For her turnovers that I got mad at her about – she made quiet plays under the basket that you don’t even know happened.”
Spohn was solid with 10 points, seven boards and four assists and Reagan Richeson added three points and six rebounds off the bench for Olentangy.
Levering had one final chance to tie, but missed on a half-court shot at the buzzer after going up between two defenders to catch a near half-court pass.
“It is finding that identity,” Krafty said. “I think we’re going to be a really good team. I honestly believe that. Props to (Olentangy). They did a really nice job.”
Both teams continue league play Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Olentangy hosts Westerville South while Liberty travels to rival Olentangy Orange.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.