Junior guard Kennedy Kashmiry’s three-pointer in overtime gave Olentangy Liberty the lead for good in a 57-53 league win at rival Olentangy Orange Thursday in Lewis Center.
The Patriots battled back from a 23-point deficit in the first half behind big performances from Kashmiry, freshman Teegan Pifher and senior Katie Harrop.
“We started out a little (slow), but we’re a tight team and we got ourselves together,” Harrop said. “We started playing a lot better than we did in the first two quarters of the game. I think that says a lot about who we are as a team to come back like that.”
Pifher led Liberty with 19 points to go with four assists and three rebounds, Harrop added 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Kashmiry had 11 points and a pair of steals.
“We had a lot of girls step up, which is really good to see,” Harrop said.
Liberty’s leading scorer, Breanna Yashko, got in foul trouble in the second half, which opened the door for Kashmiry to come off the bench. Yashko finished with three points and four assists.
“I knew I had to make something happen and score a little bit,” Kashmiry said. “People just fed me the ball and I was ready to shoot and shot it up there and hoped for the best … and it went in.”
The Pioneers got seven points from sophomore post Aurelia Johnson and six more from junior guard McKenna Ford as they raced out to a 20-4 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“Credit to Orange – they were ready to play,” Patriots coach Sam Krafty said. “They played really well – they shot exceptionally well. I think we had them 8-for-8 in the first quarter.”
Ford had seven of Orange’s nine points in the second quarter to help continue the rally.
Harrop knocked down a three and Pifher scored five in the quarter as Liberty (3-1, 2-0) cut the deficit to 29-13 at the break.
“In the Olentangy game, we had 12 dives for loose balls,” Krafty said. “At halftime of this game, we had one. So, obviously, at halftime the energy wasn’t there.”
Pifher and fellow freshman Kelly Levering, who hit a pair of threes, led Liberty with 17 of the team’s 22 points in the third quarter as Liberty cut it to 38-35 through three.
“Yeah, (those) two freshmen (played) huge roles for us (Thursday night),” Krafty said.
Johnson converted a three-point play to push the lead to 41-35 early in the fourth. But, Pifher knocked down her only triple of the game before Harrop found Kashmiry for her first of three threes.
“We needed to get stops and, give the kids credit, they came out and that’s what they did,” Krafty said. “We dug in and got enough stops when we needed them and converted enough shots to pull it out.”
Harrop stole the inbound pass and Sydney Englehart rebounded a Levering missed three to set up Kashmiry’s second three-pointer off a Pifher assist.
Schae Lilley banked in a three from deep on the right wing to tie it 48-48. The teams were tied 50-50 at the end of regulation.
Yashko fed Kashmiry for the go-ahead three and Harrop pushed the lead to five on a driving basket on the next possession.
Ford led the Pioneers with 17 points to go with five rebounds and a pair of steals. Johnson finished with 15 points and nine rebounds and Lilley added 10 points and four assists for Orange (0-3, 0-2).
“I’m not much on moral victories, but I don’t think there were too many people in Central Ohio that though we’d be close,” Pioneers coach Bob Scott said. “All and all, there’s no way that I’m going to be unhappy with that (performance).”
Next up, Orange hosts Hilliard Darby in non-league action Tuesday night while Liberty continues league play at home against Westerville South Dec. 15. Both are scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m.
Upper Arlington 49, Orange 18
Dublin Coffman 6, Orange 2
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.