By Michael Rich
Olentangy got back to its winning ways in decisive fashion with a 75-26 victory over Delaware Hayes in the first round of the Central District girls basketball tournament Saturday night in Lewis Center.
Kelly Meade scored a game-high 16 points for Olentangy, but Gillian Feasel came off the bench and stole the show with 11.
“Gill Feasel stepped up a lot for us (Saturday night) and scored off the bench,” Olentangy coach John Feasel said.
When told that Gillian Feasel, his niece, had a team-high seven rebounds, John Feasel joked, “She had seven rebounds? That might be a family high.”
All 12 players who dressed scored, which helped Olentangy (20-3) cruise to a 22-5 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Braves outscored Hayes 16-6 in the second, 23-9 in the third and 14-6 in the fourth to round out the scoring.
“That’s 20 wins five out of the last six seasons,” John Feasel said. “That’s something. It’s pretty impressive because in Central Ohio, you’re hard-pressed to find a team that wins 20 games per year. That says something about our program.”
Olivia and Emily Margolies are out of town for the first two tournament games, which left Olentangy a little short on the bench.
But that didn’t stop the rest of the bench from picking up the slack with 36 points.
“Yes, I would like to have (the Margolies twins),” John Feasel said. “I think that says something about our program. That’s where you want to get the program to — to the point where missing one or two players isn’t going to hurt and we can still play at the level we played (Saturday night).”
Julia Scott had eight points and went 6-for-6 from the foul line and Holly Nation, who started the season on the junior varsity team, pitched in six points and four rebounds. Celeste Clark came off the bench and helped out with four steals.
“It didn’t look like (Nation) skipped a beat out there,” John Feasel said about her transition from junior varsity to varsity.
“It’s always good to have (the Margolies twins), but it’s nice to see other girls step up, too,” Gillian Feasel said. “I think we all played hard in this one — we all had fun at least.”
As for the starters, Chelsea Moore had nine points and five rebounds, Emily Stephens scored eight points, Christina Baumann added six and Allison Raiff led with three assists.
Olentangy lost its first game of the season and ran off six straight wins before losing in its first game in Florida. The Braves followed with a 13-game winning streak before having that and a 27-game OCC-Capital winning streak snapped at home against Mount Vernon in the season finale.
Among those 27 straight league wins are four against Hayes and second-round opponent Franklin Heights, which led to Olentangy’s two straight league titles.
“Right now we just need to make another run,” John Feasel said. “That’s always been the goal: to win the league and then win the district.”
The Pacers almost doubled last season’s win total in Jim Morgan’s first year as coach.
“I think we’ve got a good group coming up,” Morgan said. “I think we learned a lot this year. We won five games and there were several games we were in in the fourth quarter. We’ve got the culture turning — we’re not quite there yet.”
Though it was a difficult year in terms of wins and losses, he sees it as the foundation for future success in the program.
“We’re just not in any position to play with Olentangy right now,” Morgan said. “We’re just not at that level.”
“Delaware’s getting better and they’re working hard,” John Feasel said.
Hayes (5-18) loses three seniors – Kelsey Knodell, Brandy Bauer and Kara Wegmiller.
“All three of (our) seniors gave us everything they had,” Morgan said. “They could have thrown the towel in a long time ago and they never did. They came to practice every day and they worked, they were encouraging, they were leaders — I can’t say enough about all three of them.”
Bauer scored six points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Elishia Lowery led Hayes with seven points, including a 5-for-6 effort at the foul line.
Keiona Houser chipped in four rebounds and Katie Blair finished with three rebounds and three steals to help the Pacers.
“These are great kids,” Morgan said. “I wouldn’t drive a half-hour every day if they weren’t coachable. I’m looking forward to the future. We’re going to get this thing turned around.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.