The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team’s seemingly relentless pressure paid off late as it used its press, both full-court and half-court varieties, to turn defense into offense and rally past visiting Big Walnut for a 52-49 Division I sectional final win Friday night in Lewis Center.
Down 39-31 after three quarters of action, the 11th-seeded Pioneers pushed the pace on offense and sped up the 26th-seeded Golden Eagles on defense.
It worked, too.
Mikey McCollum split a pair of free throws to open the fourth-quarter scoring and Jordan Bethel scored inside on Orange’s next trip down the floor. After the press forced a turnover — something Big Walnut was able to limit in the first half — Andre Irvin, who finished with a team-best 15 points, hit a floater to cut his team’s deficit to three, 39-36 with 6:30 left in the game.
Jared Kreager, who had 15 points of his own to lead the Eagles, scored off an offensive rebound to stop the bleeding, but it was only a momentary patch as Irvin came back in a hurry, hitting both free throws after being fouled driving to the hoop.
Caleb Conard scored inside to keep Big Walnut in front, but McCollum hit a three, Bethel split a pair from the charity stripe and Jason Foster scored a hoop set up by a steal to give Orange a 44-43 edge with 4:40 left — it’s first lead since the first quarter.
After the Pioneer press forced another Eagle turnover, Bethel scored a put-back bucket to balloon the lead to three.
Jagger Barnett hit two free throws to get BW within one, but Irvin responded by hitting two tosses at the other end before forcing a steal. Joel Addo turned the steal into points, splitting a pair at the line to give Orange some breathing room.
Conard scored inside and Kreager hit a pair of free throws to make it a one-possession game, but, after Irvin split two free throws with less than 10 seconds left, Big Walnut couldn’t connect on a potential game-tying three at the horn.
The win sets up a showdown between Orange and seventh-seeded Pickerington North in Wednesday’s district semifinal. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in Pickerington.
Olentangy 59, St. Charles 54
Tavian James and Ethan Smith combined for 41 points, including some awfully big ones down the stretch, to lead the 14th-seeded Braves to a Division I sectional final win over the visiting and 16th-seeded Cardinals Friday night in Lewis Center.
Tied at 39 heading into the fourth, Chase Walker converted a three-point play the hard way and Tommy Cloran hit a three to give St. Charles a 48-43 edge with less than five minutes left.
A Smith three two minutes later put Olentangy back on top, 52-50, and James scored inside after a hard drive to make it 54-50 with 1:15 left.
The Cardinals’ Isaac Searls cut it to two, 56-54 with 18 seconds left, but James answered in a big way, hitting both ends of a one-and-one to all but seal the deal.
With the win, Olentangy will take on sixth-seeded Pickerington Central in Wednesday’s district semifinal. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in Pickerington.
Olentangy Liberty 58, Dublin Scioto 44
The fifth-seeded Patriots jumped out to a 32-15 halftime lead they parlayed into a convincing win over the visiting and 36th-seeded Irish in a Division I sectional final Friday night in Powell.
Liberty used a 13-7 first quarter and 19-8 second to build the big cushion — a lead it added to by outscoring Scioto 18-10 in the third before cruising to the finish line.
Andrew Wade led the charge with 14 points while Tylar Foster added 13 and Cam Barcus chipped in 11.
Jaydon Pearson had 21 to lead the Irish while Tyson Boze had 10 in the setback.
Next up, Liberty will take on eighth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in Wednesday’s district semifinal back in Powell. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
Dublin Coffman 61, Olentangy Berlin 52
The 29th-seeded Bears started fast, and led 28-24 at the half, but the host and ninth-seeded Shamrocks caught them in the third and went ahead to stay in the fourth to notch a Division I sectional final win Friday night in Dublin.
Ajay Sheldon poured in a game-high 30 points for Coffman while Dylan Van Vlerah added 18. Austin Corley finished with 24 points to pace Berlin while Jason Inbody added 12 and Mathios Abenet chipped in 11 in the setback.