By Michael Rich
Upper Arlington rode a 21-4 run during the second and third quarters to a 56-40 victory to hand the Olentangy Liberty girls basketball team its second loss of the season and first in OCC-Central play Friday night in Upper Arlington.
The Golden Bears (12-5, 7-3) held the Patriots to just four free throws during the stretch while Kortney Eisenman scored nine of her game-high 25 points as UA built a 38-18 lead in the third quarter.
“Kortney was a handful for us (Friday night),” Patriots coach Sam Krafty said. “I thought we had a better plan and I think we got away from it a little too early when they hit some threes on us. We might have pressed the panic button a little too soon.”
Eisenman had 11 rebounds and seven blocks for the Bears.
“We had done well against her in the past, but (Friday night), she was the difference-maker,” Krafty said.
Liberty went 13 minutes and 12 seconds without a field goal during the second and third quarters until Breanna Yashko found Lauren Hofer underneath for a layup with 2:48 left in the third.
“We hit a wall there and were having a very, very hard time getting anything going offensively,” Krafty said. “It kind of effected our defense a little bit – especially our rebounding. The one thing I was disappointed with is when our offense went, our defense and rebounding went with it.”
Hofer led Liberty with 18 points and three rebounds and Yashko finished with nine points and a couple of boards.
Yashko followed with a three-pointer from deep on the left wing. That, along with steady free throw shooting in the third period, helped the Patriots (16-2, 9-1) pull it to 41-29 at the end of the third.
“When we got down 20, I liked our fight digging back a little bit,” Krafty said.
But Eisenman opened the fourth with baskets on consecutive possessions and the Bears went on an 8-0 run to extend the lead back to 20 late in the fourth before Liberty got baskets by Hofer, Savitha Jayaraman and Kennedy Kashmiry late in the period. Jayaraman had two assists, two rebounds and two blocks.
Jayaraman made a three-pointer in the first quarter and Hofer scored four points during a 6-0 run to help the Patriots stay close, trailing 13-12 after one.
Kileigh Casey hit two threes in the first quarter after Elli Wachtman opened the game with one to help get UA out to a 9-4 start.
Wachtman finished with eight points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists and Casey finished with seven points for the Bears. Sarah Poling added five points, three assists and three rebounds.
The Patriots played without top-scorer Alexa Fisher, who injured her foot in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game at Teays Valley.
“It’s a little transition for us,” Krafty said. “We were starting to really click there offensively. This injury is a little bit of a set-back for us. Right now, we don’t know a whole lot other than there are no fractures. We find out more next week. It could be a day-to-day thing; it could be week-to-week thing, we don’t know.”
Krafty did not rule out the possibility of having Fisher back for Tuesday’s game at Marysville, which is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m.
It’s just the fourth loss in the past two seasons under Krafty and the first by double digits. The last time Liberty lost by more than 10 points was Feb. 7, 2014 – a 26-point setback at Dublin Coffman – a span of 37 games.
“I’m really happy with my kids – the way they fight,” Krafty said. “We haven’t had games like this very often.”
The Patriots’ worst loss under Krafty was a nine-point setback in the regional semifinal game against Newark last season.
The loss closes the gap in the OCC-Central between Liberty and second-place Coffman, who defeated Marysville Friday night. Both teams have four games to play, including a head-to-head matchup Feb. 5 in Dublin.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.