The Orange girls basketball team may have played its best two quarters of basketball of the year Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, the Olentangy Braves were just a bit better in the middle two periods.
The Braves used their swarming pressure defense to force turnovers and shut down the Orange offense in the second and third quarters before finishing with a 56-40 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory over the Pioneers at Olentangy High School.
Olentangy (2-2, 2-0 OCC Capital) forced 21 of the 35 Orange (0-5, 0-3) turnovers in the two middle quarters, and held the Pioneers to just eight points — four in the second period and four more in the third — to take a 28-point lead, 50-22, after three quarters.
“I think our pressure kind of wore them down,” Olentangy coach John Feasel said. “With our girls we have to do two things: Go up tempo and pressure the ball. We kind of forgot that during the Liberty game, but watching the film reminded me of that. Tonight our press worked well and any time we can score in the 50s or 60s we have a good chance to win games.”
“We stopped being patient,” Orange coach Kelly Joseph said. “We have to make sure we keep our composure when we’re pressed over half court, and we have to be determined to get in our offense instead of just pushing forward. We had a lot of turnovers in the front court rather than the back court, so that’s something we’re going to work on.”
The Pioneers gave the Braves something to worry about in the first quarter, however, when Orange turned a 4-0 deficit around with an 11-0 run, hitting four consecutive shots and going 2 for 3 from the foul line in a span of just two minutes.
After that, the Pioneers had trouble getting shots off, let alone getting them to fall. Orange had just two shots the rest of the quarter, and Olentangy outscored the Pioneers 10-3 the rest of the period to tie the game at 14 after one.
“Making a couple shots makes all the difference,” Joseph said. “We made a couple shots, the girls were hitting and we gained some confidence, but then we started to shoot a little too quickly. We needed to slow down, take our time and make sure we got good shots.”
“We’re young, and we just have to realize when we have to take care of things,” Feasel said. “We have to come out ready and focused, and I thought we were focused. They just fired the first shot. There are going to be runs, but we have to make sure we weather their runs and go back at them with some of our own.”
Orange also made the final score more respectable with its solid fourth quarter. The Pioneers hit seven of their 10 shots in the fourth, hit all three three-pointers they attempted and cut down on mistakes. Despite the final result, Orange outscored Olentangy 18-6 in the final period.
“Our third quarter wasn’t too bad,” Joseph said. “We went into the half down 14, but we kept the second half pretty even.”
“Give them credit,” Feasel said. “They have young kids, too, but they kept playing hard and battling and won the fourth quarter. Kelly is doing a good job with them over there.”
The late first quarter run led directly to the Braves’ second quarter, when Olentangy jumped out into the lead with consecutive baskets from junior Rachel Womeldorf and senior Rachel Hyburg. After Pioneer senior Emilia Martin cut the lead back to two with a jumper from the right side, Olentangy scored the next 12 points in just over five minutes and forced Orange turnovers on eight of the next 11 Pioneer possessions.
Olentangy led 32-18 at the break, but after both teams exchanged buckets in the third, Olentangy went on another 10-0 run in a span of four minutes, getting points from four different players, to push the lead to 26 points, 46-20.
Orange junior Mikaela Lyons stopped the run with a layup off a Martin feed, but Braves sophomore Kelly Meade and junior Morgan Horvath added a bucket apiece to put Olentangy ahead by 28 after three quarters.
The Pioneers showed their resilience in the final period, getting threes from Lyons and junior Brianna Barron early in the quarter and another from Martin later in the period to cut the deficit back to 20 points, 52-32.
Olentangy pushed the lead back to 24 on a trey from Horvath and a free throw from freshman Allison Raiff, but Orange scored the final eight points of the game on a Lena Mancini jumper, a jumper and layup from Lexi Werling and a jumper from Brianne McCague for the final margin.
Horvath had 13 points, nine rebounds, five steals and four assists to lead the way for Olentangy. Meade finished with 12 points off the bench, including two threes, while Hyburg, starting in Meade’s place, finished with nine points, three rebounds and two steals. Christina Baumann added seven points plus two assists and two steals, and Womeldorf had six points plus a pair of rebounds.
Werling and Lyons topped the scoring for the Pioneers with 12 points each, Lyons adding eight rebounds and Werling chipping in four boards and three steals. Martin closed with eight points, including two threes, and had three assists. Barron finished with four points, and Mancini and McCague two points each, Mancini topping the team with four assists.