The Olentangy girls basketball team used an 11-0 run in the first half to overcome a slow start and closed with a 12-3 run to pick up its fourth straight win — a 44-35 victory over Big Walnut in the regular-season finale for both squads Wednesday night in Lewis Center.
Allison Raiff led Olentangy (11-11) with 13 points, including five in the decisive fourth-quarter run. Lauren Biehl finished with nine points and Grace Pennington added seven points and four steals.
“We were having a little bit of trouble making outside shots,” Pennington said. “We knew that we really had to step it up on defense. Once the defensive intensity picked up, we could get it back on offense.”
Olentangy outscored Big Walnut by a combined 20-8 margin in the second and fourth quarters, holding the Golden Eagles to just 2-for-25 from the field and three free throws.
“You go five and three in the (second and fourth) quarters – that’s tough,” BW coach Steve Palmer said.
Erin Boehm and Taryn Hammond had four points apiece and Kelly Kreager had three as BW opened 16-7.
“We shot the ball well,” Palmer said. “I thought we had good shots even down the line, we just didn’t make any.”
A Pennington basket to close the first frame pulled Olentangy to within seven. An Emily Margolies put-back, two Raiff free throws, a Biehl basket and a free throw by Gillian Feasel opened the second to square things up 16-16.
“We got away from passing the ball — it was one pass, shot — and that always kills us,” Olentangy coach Mike Daniels said. “So, I stopped the threes … I said everything’s going to the basket. When we moved the ball, we had some good looks.”
After two Kreager free throws, Biehl knocked down a three-pointer to give Olentangy its first lead. Emily Margolies pushed the lead to three with another put-back before Hammond knocked down a three-pointer and the teams went to the break tied 21-21.
Emily Margolies finished with four points and five rebounds in the first half and Olivia Margolies finished with five points and eight rebounds in the second half for Olentangy.
Katie Neff scored eight of her team-high 13 points in the third quarter on the strength of a pair of three-pointers, the last of which gave the Eagles a 29-26 lead.
“She played well Friday night (against Franklin Heights), too,” Palmer said. “She’s shooting the ball well.”
Molly Delaney and Pennington scored baskets on back-to-back possessions to briefly give Olentangy the lead with 4:03 left in the third.
Neff knocked down a jumper from the baseline to give BW (14-8) the lead back at 32-31, but Raiff answered on the next possession to give Olentangy the lead for good. Olentangy led 36-32 at the end of three.
Olentangy scored six of its last eight points from the free throw line to ice the game away in the fourth quarter.
Hammond had eight points and four rebounds for BW, Boehm added six points and eight rebounds and Katie Cochran had eight rebounds and three steals for the Eagles.
“I was proud of our defense,” Palmer said. “I’ve seen ‘Tangy put up 55, 60, 65 (or) 70 – they can score.”
Both teams have a first-round bye in the upcoming Division I district tournament.
BW, the 18th-seed, hosts its first tournament game since 2013 Tuesday night against either 21st-seeded Licking Heights or 23rd-seeded Marysville.
Meanwhile, 27th-seeded Olentangy visits 12th-seeded Thomas Worthington Tuesday night.
“I’m looking forward to the tournament … I think it’s my favorite time of year,” Pennington said. “I think everybody’s competitiveness takes one step up.”
Bloom-Carroll 66, Buckeye Valley 58, OT
The Barons won the fourth quarter 16-6 to send the game into overtime, but were outscored 15-7 in the extra session en route to a non-league setback Wednesday in Delaware.
The Barons dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Bulldogs 40-18, but turned the ball over 17 times — turnovers which led the 10 Bloom-Carroll points.
Alaina Radcliffe led BV’s attack, finishing with 16 points and six rebounds. Other Baron standouts included Logan Hatcher, who finished with 13 points and six boards; and Morgan Scowden, who added 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.