By Michael Rich
Breanna Yashko jump-started a 12-2 run to open the second half to help Olentangy Liberty defeat rival Olentangy Orange 48-32 in the second round of the Division I girls basketball district tournament Friday night in Powell.
Yashko, who led the way with 14 points, assisted Savitha Jayaraman for three to open the third-period scoring before she hit one of her own — three of seven consecutive points she scored for the Patriots.
“I think when Yashko is right, our team is right,” Jayaraman said.
Yashko was held to two points in the first half.
“Offensively, we knew they’d come out and trick it up on Bre a little bit … everybody’s been doing it,” Patriots coach Sam Krafty said. “She kind of got things going … sometimes you gotta beat the person in front of you.”
Gracie Foth capped the run with a steal and a layup to give Liberty (21-3) a 31-16 lead with about three and a half minutes left in the third. The Patriots led 38-22 through three.
Liberty was held scoreless from the field in the fourth quarter, but proved why free throw shooting is important. The Patriots went a perfect 10-for-10 from the line, including an 8-for-8 performance by senior post Lauren Hofer.
“We didn’t really need to hit a shot from the field in the fourth quarter,” Krafty said.
The Patriots also started strong from the line, going 5-for-6 in the first period to spark a 9-2 lead through one. They finished 20-of-23 while Hofer scored 11 of her 13 points at the line with just one miss. Hofer had a team-high four steals.
Free throw shooting may have been the key to the Patriots scoring, but defensively Jayaraman blocked three shots on one possession. She finished with seven blocks to go with 10 points.
“(Blocking shots is) something that I’ve worked on for a while,” Jayaraman said. “That’s a big thing for me on defense is altering shots — I don’t always have to block them, but altering shots is a big deal.”
“She’s over 90 (blocked shots) for the year,” Krafty said. “Sevi played well for us (Friday night). She hit a couple of big shots. We need that from her.”
Orange (10-13) came storming back with seven straight points to open the second. McKenna Ford hit a three-pointer to start the rally and freshman Courtney Scott capped the run with a steal and a score to tie it 9-9 with 4:46 left in the half.
“My kids came out and competed and played the best they could possibly play,” Pioneers coach Bob Scott said. “We played pretty good defense.”
Courtney Scott drove the lane and scored to make it a two point deficit at 16-14, but Gracie Foth banked in a three-pointer to give Liberty its 19-14 lead at the break.
“Courtney is a freshman … she’s played a lot of basketball and has a good basketball mind,” Bob Scott said. “(Varsity) is a little different situation than she’s probably used to, but she got in there and handled it.”
“I thought we had to clean up our act a little bit,” Jayaraman said. “I thought we were playing a little looser than we should have been.”
Hannah Sargent had 10 points and four rebounds, Ford finished with eight points and seven rebounds and Scott added seven points and four steals for the Pioneers.
“You gotta expect that everybody is going to give (Liberty) their best shot, and we were going to give them a better shot than we did the last time,” Bob Scott said.
Liberty defeated Orange 84-46 at home Dec. 16.
Next up, Liberty plays 11th-seeded and OCC-Central rival Upper Arlington in the district semifinal Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.