By Michael Rich
A pair of blocked shots in the final five seconds of the game helped Olentangy hold on for a 47-44 victory over Teays Valley in a Division I girls basketball district semifinal Wednesday night in Newark.
Kelly Meade blocked a go-ahead three-point attempt with five seconds left to help her team maintain a two-point advantage and Allison Raiff blocked an attempt from half court at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
“Kelly gets disappointed — she thinks she needs to be our scorer and I think she does,” Olentangy coach John Feasel said. “Our team is a lot better when she is scoring. But, she did some things (against TV) at the end of the third quarter and the fourth quarter that helped us out that we don’t (measure statistically) … she played some (defense) and got that block. That was big.”
Olentangy (22-3) had to overcome an 11-point deficit in the first half and needed a total team effort to punch a ticket to its third consecutive district title and the sixth in the last seven years.
“Going into this season, a lot of people didn’t know if we would be able to make it this far,” senior Chelsea Moore said. “Just proving them wrong and coming in as strong as we are … it just feels amazing.”
“We have so many players that contribute,” senior Emily Stephens said. “I think we work so well together.”
Olivia Margolies led the team with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. She also had three assists.
“Olivia started the night and didn’t come out all night,” Feasel said. “(Allison) Raiff didn’t come out either … everybody played their roles and played hard, and that’s what we needed.”
Grace Pennington came off the bench and played solid defense, along with Moore, on Teays Valley top scorer Shayna Harmon.
“(Pennington) played great in practice on Monday and that’s kind of the reason I went to her,” Feasel said. “She was making shots and playing really well. She gave us that boost that we needed. Hopefully she can keep that (up) and carry it over.”
Harmon scored 13 points and led with six rebounds and five assists for the Vikings.
“(Pennington) played smart,” Moore said. “She played amazing defense. She really stepped up to the challenge and proved that she has what it takes.”
Baylee Kuhlwein led the Vikings with 17 points and had four rebounds and three assists. She scored 11 points in the second quarter alone, knocking down a pair of three pointers, including one that gave TV a 26-15 lead with 4:32 left in the first half.
“(Teays Valley) is a tough team with two great players,” Feasel said. “It was a struggle all night for us.”
Teays Valley (18-7) used an 8-0 run to grab a 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Vikings pushed it to 20-9 when Logann Rickards found Kuhlwein for a basket with 6:33 left in the half.
Olentangy was held to three free throws for a stretch that lasted over six minutes in the first half. Margolies fed Stephens with 5:48 remaining in the half to finally end the drought.
Moore’s put-back on the next possession made it 20-15 with 5:13 remaining in the half.
Kuhlwein scored the next six points of the game on TV’s next two possession, converting a three-point play followed by a three from the corner to extend the lead back to 11.
Olentangy closed out the first half with a 6-0 run thanks to baskets by Stephens, Gillian Feasel and Raiff, and trailed 26-21 at the break.
“I think we really needed that to boost our morale,” Stephens said.
Raiff helped Olentangy open the second half with a pair of baskets during a 6-0 run that gave her team a brief 27-26 lead with 6:08 left in the period.
But Harmon found Kuhlwein for her third three of the night and then found Sarah Klein to push it to 31-27.
Olentangy closed the frame strong with a pair of threes by Pennington and Gillian Feasel to gain a one-point lead.
Harmon knocked down a three of her own before Pennington tied it with 36 seconds left in the period.
Christina Baumann found Margolies for a short jumper left of the key to give Olentangy a 38-36 lead … and it never trailed again.
“(Margolies) has stepped up big this year,” Moore said. “Coming in as a freshman and playing like a seasoned vet, honestly. She came in with no fear. Once she started draining her baskets, there was no stopping her. She came in and absolutely exceeded expectations.”
Meade, Stephens and Moore finished with seven points each. Raiff ended up with six points and Pennington and Gillian Feasel added five each for Olentangy. Raiff led with four assists.
“I think everybody contributed (Wednesday) night for us,” coach Feasel said. “That’s the way this team is … we just try to get the job done, and it’s not really any one player who carries us.”
Olentangy will play the winner of Newark and Logan in the district final at Ohio Dominican University Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.