The Olentangy Liberty girls basketball team got hot with seven of its nine total three-pointers coming in a five-minute stretch in the first half to take control on its way to a 59-40 victory at rival Olentangy Orange Friday night in Lewis Center.
Emma Humenay and Kennedy Kashmiry each hit from long range in the final minute of the first quarter to give the Patriots the lead for good.
“We shoot it well as a team … but we still only shoot it 38 percent as a team,” Liberty coach Sam Krafty said. “The kids have developed a nice mental toughness where, if it’s not falling, they’re patient, look for other things and continue to play good defense … and they did that tonight.”
Kashmiry knocked one down to start the second quarter before Gina Santangelo buried a three as part of a 15-2 run to open the frame. Humenay also hit a triple as part of the deciding run.
“When my team would drive and kick, I just tried to be in the gaps,” Santangelo said. “So, I couldn’t do it without them. I just started getting open and they kept getting me the ball.”
“(Gina) can shoot it … she’s a nice little player,” Krafty said. “She’s made major improvements. I’m really proud of the job she’s done.”
Krafty believes if his team can find an inside presence, it’s going to be a tough beat down the stretch.
“We need to get that consistency inside to make (opponents) have to collapse inside,” Krafty said. “We need somebody to suck the defense in and really open the perimeter back up for us because teams are obviously trying to take that away from us.”
Friday, Kelly Levering provided that threat against Orange. She converted five of her six field goals in the paint, including a pair of three-point plays.
“We moved Kelly to a new spot there in the middle – feeling like she could attack a little bit,” Krafty said. “She did a nice job. I think she was 0-for-3 from three in the first half and, in the second half, she really settled in and took what they gave her.”
Levering finished with a team-high 15 points, Santangelo added 12 and Humenay added 10 for the Patriots (8-7, 4-3), who have won three straight.
“It was a good week for us – to go 3-0 with two of them against Olentangy schools and then throw Dublin Scioto in the middle of it — it’s a good week,” Krafty said. “I’m real proud of the kids because coming off that five-game stretch that didn’t go so well it could have gone one way or another. But, the kids … they care.
“As long as we keep doing that … we’re going to be alright.”
Levering’s and-one in the second quarter – along with a Lauren Spicer basket — helped Liberty build a 32-16 lead.
McKenna Ford knocked down a pair of threes in the final minute of the half and Orange trailed 32-22 at the break.
Santangelo and Levering each hit threes sandwiched around a Humenay two as Liberty opened the second half 8-0.
Anna Grabau converted a pair of baskets and Alyssa Feely added a third in a 6-0 run to cut the deficit back to 12, but that was as close as Orange could get it after halftime.
Liberty pushed the lead as high as 21 in the fourth quarter.
“We gambled a little bit on our defense and tried to play outside in and it didn’t work out,” Orange coach Bob Scott said. “We had two or three little stretches where we got out of sync. Every time we cut into their lead, we’d have a little stretch where we turned the ball over a bit.
Grabau hit three triples in the final frame to finish with a career-high 19 points for the Pioneers (3-12, 0-7). Ford finished with nine points and Riley Duffy added eight.
“The effort has been great,” Scott said. “We’re playing as a team and that’s all we can ask for. We’re a little under-manned … we’re not very big. But, our effort is good. Overall, the kids aren’t giving up. So, we keep playing and that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”
Both teams face non-league competition next. Orange hosts Dublin Jerome today at 7 p.m. and Liberty visits Hilliard Davidson Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contract him at firstname.lastname@example.org.