Junior Molly Delaney said she felt loose before the game. Maybe it was hearing from her doctor that she could finally take the knee brace off.
She wore it and scored a game-high 17 points, including seven during a 19-3 run in the second quarter.
“I felt really loose (Thursday) and I normally don’t feel that way,” Delaney said.
The Olentangy girls basketball team trailed by 11 when Delaney started the run and then cruised to a 60-48 victory over rival Olentangy Orange in the OCC-Buckeye finale Thursday night in Lewis Center.
“(Delaney’s) a phenomenal basketball player and, when she’s a hundred percent, the OCC’s going to remember her because she’s one of the top players,” Olentangy coach Mike Daniels said. “We’re just waiting.”
Delaney has had a long road to recovery since she tore her ACL at Worthington Kilbourne Feb. 2 of last season in a game that clinched the OCC-Capital title for Olentangy.
“It’s been really frustrating actually … it’s been hard just battling with myself,” she said. “But, my teammates have helped me. I just wasn’t as fast and it’s hard with the brace to move and do the same moves as I used to, but (Thursday) it felt a lot better.”
While she can take the brace off, she said her mother wouldn’t let her. So, she’ll wear a lighter one in the future.
“I think it was just in my head and (the news gave) me a lot of confidence toward this game,” she said.
Olivia Margolies scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half and, along with Gillian Feasel, led Olentangy with six rebounds. Lauren Biehl had 11 points and Allison Raiff added 10 points and had game-highs in assists (six) and steals (three).
“I wanted them to push the ball because (Orange was) up trapping us,” Daniels said. “When these girls get fired up and hit … they hit. They’re good. They’re tough to beat.”
Olentangy (9-11, 6-4) missed its first eight shots of the game and was held to two Raiff free throws before Delaney knocked down her first shot of the game with 2:20 left in the opening period – a three-pointer from the right that bounced off the rim a couple of times before finally falling.
“Whenever I see the ball go through – it’s such a relief because I know that I can keep shooting and my confidence is boosted,” Delaney said.
Olentangy was just 2-for-12 from the field in the opening period with the help of a buzzer beater by Raiff.
Meawhile, Orange was hot … especially from three-point range. Schae Lilley drained three from long range and McKenna Ford added a fourth as the Pioneers built an 18-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Delaney started the run with her second basket, then Biehl hit a three. Raiff followed with a couple of short jumpers. After a Margolies free throw, Delaney gave Olentangy a brief 19-18 lead.
“(Raiff is) a great team leader,” Daniels said. “She’s the one that, when we have a lead, (she slows) them down. She’s able to control the game and it’s what a senior and a leader and point guard does.”
Alyssa Feeley stopped the bleeding for Orange, but another Delaney three-pointer gave Olentangy the lead for good a couple of possessions later. Olentangy led 26-21 at the break.
Biehl knocked down a pair of threes and scored eight points and Delaney added seven to help Olentangy blow it open with a 22-10 third quarter to lead 48-31.
A Margolies basket on the first possession of the fourth frame pushed the lead to 19, Olentangy’s largest of the game.
Orange’s Taylor Myers sank four free throws and assisted on a Lilley basket in a 6-0 spurt and later, after another Ford three-pointer, the Pioneers got as close as 11.
Lilley led Orange (7-15, 2-8) with 20 points on the strength of four threes, Ford finished with 11, including three from long distance and, along with Aurelia Johnson, led the Pioneers with four rebounds. Hannah Sargent had a team-high four assists.
Next up, Olentangy hosts East Cleveland Shaw in non-league action Monday at 7:30 p.m. Orange is off until the tournament. The 34th-seeded Pioneers travel to sixth-seeded Hilliard Bradley in the first round Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.