If defense wins championships, it most certainly wins second-round games, too.
The 12th-seeded Olentangy girls basketball team used it to its advantage in Friday’s Division I sectional final against visiting and 19th-seeded Big Walnut, allowing just six first-half points on the way to a 50-35 win.
With the game tied, 4-4, Ellen Kinnaird converted a three-point play and Camryn Cummings hit a jumper from the right wing to give the Braves a 9-4 edge with a minute left in the first quarter.
Big Walnut’s Avery Maxeiner ended the quick 5-0 spurt with a hoop at the other end, but Cummings hit another jumper, from almost the same spot as the first, to give Olentangy an 11-6 lead after one.
The Braves didn’t know it at the time, but the hoop to close the quarter turned out to be the start of a game-clinching run as they used hustle and defense to blank the Golden Eagles 16-0 in the second and take a commanding 27-6 lead into the break.
Olentangy’s Jonna Spohn scored inside to open the second quarter, Dani Beidelman hit a pair of free throws, Isabelle Walters hit from the top of the key and Kinnaird drained a jumper to balloon the lead to 19-6 with 2:53 left in the half.
Reagan Richeson continued the surge with a three-point play set up by a nice find from Spohn. She split a pair of free throws on the Braves’ next trip down the floor, and, after missing the second, Beidelman tipped the offensive board to Kennedie Doup in the corner, who then found Richeson under the hoop for an easy layin.
Richeson scored again just before the half, tracking down an offensive rebound of her own before scoring inside to make it a 27-6 game at the half.
Big Walnut regrouped a bit at halftime and, despite the deficit, played hard until the final horn. Jordan Walters hit a pair of free throws less than a minute into the third quarter and Abby Brown, the Eagles’ leading scorer, finally cracked the scoring column with a hoop with 5:12 left in the quarter.
Spohn answered with a bucket at the other end, though, and Doup hit back-to-back threes to make it 38-10 late in the third. Brown answered with a three of her own, and Maxeiner scored inside, but the Braves still led 43-18 heading into the fourth.
Brown scored nine straight points in the final quarter to close the gap a bit, but Big Walnut never got much closer than the final 15-point spread.
Next up, Olentangy will host the winner of today’s D-I sectional final between Logan and Olentangy Berlin Wednesday night a 7 p.m., with the winner earning a spot in the district championship.
Also: Hilliard Bradley 46, Olentangy Liberty 40; Licking Valley 42, Buckeye Valley 28.
Olentangy Liberty trailed 14-6 after a quarter, but turned things around in a hurry, outscoring visiting Olentangy Orange 22-6 in the second to take control on the way to a 58-51 OCC-Central Division win Friday night in Powell.
The Patriots’ Henry Hinkle led all scorers with 20 points thanks in part to an 11-for-12 performance at the free throw line. Liberty made 21 of its 25 free throws for the game. Cooper Davis, who hit three triples, backed Hinkle with 15 points while Andrew Wade had 11 in the win.
Jason Foster led the Pioneers with 17 points while Andre Irvin and Jordan Bethel closed with nine and eight, respectively.
Marysville 54, Olentangy 52
Ethan Smith finished with 14 points and Tavian James added 12, but it wasn’t enough as the host Monarchs edged the Braves in OCC action Friday night in Marysville.
Jack Christian led Marysville with 17 points while Garrett Taylor added 10 in the win.
Thomas Worthington 63, Olentangy Berlin 43
The visiting Cardinals outscored the Bears 17-8 in the first quarter and 21-8 in the second to build a big halftime lead they parlayed into a league win Friday night in Delaware.
Berlin’s Jason Inbody led all scorers with 14 points while Kerwin Williams and Jalen Sullinger closed with 13 and 12, respectively.