By Ben Stroup
The Olentangy Liberty girls basketball team found hoops hard to come by down the stretch, managing just three in the second half, as Upper Arlington pulled away for a 48-39 win in a Division I district semifinal Wednesday at Orange.
The 11th-seeded Golden Bears (19-6), up 33-29 at halftime after finishing the second quarter with two quick buckets in transition, took control in the third. They limited the second-seeded Patriots (21-4) to just four third-quarter points — all by senior post Lauren Hofer — and closed the period on an 8-0 run to take a 43-33 lead into the fourth.
Upper Arlington senior post Kortney Eisenman split a pair from the charity stripe to balloon her team’s lead to 44-33 early in the final frame, but Liberty senior wing Savitha Jayaraman buried a deep three while being bumped to give the Patriots some late life.
The four-point play made it a 44-37 game with 3:55 left before Hofer scored inside on the ensuing possession to bring Liberty within five, 44-39 with 2:28 to play.
The Golden Bears dug in from there, though, as freshman guard Macy Spielman and senior forward Elli Wachtman blanketed Patriot shooters Breanna Yashko and Jayaraman in the final two minutes. Hofer’s hoop proved to be Liberty’s last as Upper Arlington sealed the deal from the free throw line.
Yashko, who sparked the Patriots with three treys in the first half, was held scoreless in the third and fourth quarters.
Eisenman boosted the Golden Bears early, scoring two quick hoops to give them a 6-2 lead four minutes into the game. Yashko sandwiched an Eisenman bucket with two three-pointers, both set up by offensive rebounds and kick-outs by sophomore wing Sydney Englehart, to even things at eight with 2:10 left in the first.
The teams combined for a spree of six straight threes midway through the second half. Yashko and Jayaraman connected for the Patriots while Spielman and Sarah Poling hit one apiece before Caroline Warner made a pair on back-to-back possessions, the latter giving Upper Arlington a 29-27 lead with 2:44 left in the second.
Hofer made a nice move down low, scoring inside to even the game at 29, but the Golden Bears outscored the Patriots 19-10 over the final two-plus quarters.
Hofer led Liberty with 12 points while Jayaraman and Yashko finished with nine apiece.
Eisenman and Spielman led a balanced UA attack with 12 points apiece. Warner added 11 while Poling finished with eight.
The Golden Bears will play the winner of today’s showdown between 14th-seeded Thomas Worthington and 16th-seeded New Albany in Saturday’s district championship.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @aimmedianetwork.com