Senior Molly Delaney scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the third quarter, including the three-pointer that gave host Olentangy the lead for good in a 47-38 victory over rival Olentangy Liberty.
Grace Pennington scored 14 points and Jessica Nation added 11 in Olentangy’s OCC-Capital opener Tuesday night in Lewis Center.
“This is a big game for us — a rivalry game for us — and we really wanted to get the win,” Delaney said. “I just told myself that I needed to step up and it happened.”
Liberty was left looking for answers after sophomore Teegan Pifher left the game at the 2:50 mark of the first quarter with an apparent knee injury.
“From what everyone is saying — the trainers and what she’s telling them — it doesn’t sound good,” Patriots coach Sam Krafty said. “Obviously, we won’t know anything for a while. I just feel god-awful for her.”
Gina Santangelo provided a spark off the bench for the Patriots by knocking down a three-pointer and a jumper to give Liberty its first lead with 0:20 left before the break at 21-20.
“Sometimes we don’t know what we’re going to get when we step on the floor,” Olentangy coach Mike Daniels said. “I put it on the seniors — they’re the captains — they have to set the tempo. The third quarter and the fourth quarter they did that.”
The lead made it through the break, but Delaney came through early in the third quarter with a three-pointer at the 7:15 mark to give Olentangy (3-2, 1-0) the lead for good. She added a three-point later in the frame to push the lead to six.
“In the first half … I was just chucking it,” Delaney said. “At halftime, I just told myself that I need to take control and be calm.”
Kelly Levering caught fire for Liberty. She knocked down four threes in the second half to finish with a team-high 16 points.
After one of Levering’s threes cut Olentangy’s lead to two, Delaney came through with a three-pointer to push the lead to 35-28 at the end of the third.
Levering’s fourth three of the half cut the Liberty deficit to two again in the fourth.
“I’m proud of the kids for the fight,” Krafty said. “I was proud of Kelly Levering — she hit some big shots for us. We kind of rode on her shoulders there for about a quarter and a half. She kept us in it.”
But, Pennington drove the lane for a lay-in and completed the three-point play at the line to give Olentangy a 39-34 lead.
“The second half we came out and executed better,” Daniels said. “We can be a very good team when we execute. We lack height, so it was hard for their bigs to come out and guard us with some of the stuff that we do.”
Olentangy closed on a 7-0 run after a Kennedy Kashmiry three-pointer cut it to 41-37 with about four minutes left.
Kashmiry finished with seven points and Santangelo added five off the bench for Liberty (2-1, 0-1), which finished with seven three-pointers for the game.
“We can’t hang our hat on our three-point shooting,” Krafty said. “Now, we’re going to shoot a lot of them and we have some good shooters, but we’re not always going to make eight or 10 as a team.”
Both teams are back at it in league play Friday. Liberty hosts rival Olentangy Orange and Olentangy hosts Westerville South. Both are scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him on Twitter at firstname.lastname@example.org.