Coming back from a knee injury, Nicole Payne played in only about 30 seconds of the Olentangy High School girls basketball team's 48-46 loss to Hilliard Bradley in a Division II district final last year.

Coming back from a knee injury, Nicole Payne played in only about 30 seconds of the Olentangy High School girls basketball team's 48-46 loss to Hilliard Bradley in a Division II district final last year.

Payne, now a senior guard, is glad she and the Braves get another chance against the Jaguars.

The Braves, who improved to 20-2 by defeating Delaware 70-38 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 21, play Bradley in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Olentangy Orange.

"We have a chance to redeem ourselves," said Payne, who scored 14 points against Delaware. "We need to beat them so we get a chance to move on."

Payne, who missed most of last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, was put in late in the district final to give Olentangy another 3-point shooter.

Trailing 46-40, Brooke Zwayer hit a 3 with 48.5 seconds remaining and 2011 graduate Olivia Zwayer made a 3 with 15.3 seconds left to tie the game. However, Bradley's Brooke Espenschied took the ball the length of the court in the final six seconds and made a running jumper with .7 of a second remaining.

"I guess I'm kind of hard headed, but inside I wanted to see (Bradley) again," coach John Feasel said. "It's going to be another tough battle."

To set up the rematch, the seventh-seeded Braves relied on their depth against Delaware. Olentangy played without all-OCC-Cardinal Division second-team selection Lydia Hyburg and first-team all-league selection Brooke Zwayer. Both are expected to play in the district semifinal.

Payne (14 points), Megan Beidelman (12) and Gina Miccinilli (12) scored in double figures and Morgan Horvath had nine assists.

"It means a lot to get another chance against Bradley," Payne said. "We're focused. We're really ready to bring it."

The winner plays top-seeded Reynoldsburg or ninth-seeded Watterson in a district final at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Orange.

The district champion advances to a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at Otterbein University against Canton McKinley, North Canton Hoover, Uniontown Green or Wooster.

Olentangy has not played any of those six teams this season.

The regional final is 1 p.m. March 10 at Otterbein.

•The first eight minutes could go a long way toward determining the winner of a Division I district semifinal between third-seeded Orange and Newark at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Pickerington Central.

The Wildcats, who improved to 13-9 by upsetting eighth-seeded Central Crossing 49-40 in the second round Feb. 21, have outscored their last five opponents by a combined score of 71-38 in the first quarter while compiling a 4-1 record.

"We can't come out slow against Newark," said forward Kelsey Lewis, who scored six points in a 77-19, second-round victory over Walnut Ridge on Feb. 21 as the Pioneers improved to 21-1. "We have to come out strong and ready to play."

The winner faces fourth-seed Northland or 12th-seeded Zanesville in a district final at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Pickerington Central. The Pioneers beat Northland 50-49 on Dec. 12 but haven't faced Zanesville.

Mya Walker (18 points), Allison Donatelli (13), Taylor Agler (11) and Kierstynn Myers (11) scored in double figures against Walnut Ridge.

"I thought we performed well together as a team," Lewis said. "Everyone passed, moved and we were all on the same page."

The Pioneers have given up only three 3-pointers in the postseason, but their perimeter defense should be tested by Newark, which has made 24 3s in its last five games, including 14 by senior Kayla Bear.

The winner advances to a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at Otterbein against second-seeded Pickerington North, fifth-seeded Dublin Coffman, sixth-seeded Gahanna or 11th-seeded New Albany.

Orange beat New Albany 38-29 on Dec. 16 and 46-39 on Jan. 27 in OCC-Capital play.

The regional final is 1 p.m. March 10 at Otterbein.

•The put-back basket that Liberty allowed in the final second of the first half of its 40-28 loss to Gahanna in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 21 at Hilliard Davidson meant a lot more than two points, according to coach Ron Florey.

"I don't want to say that it sucked the life out of us," Florey said. "However, it did take it from a four-point game to a six-point game. When you only scored 10 points in the first half, it's a big momentum shift."

Freshman forward Gabriela Martin scored nine points for Liberty, which finished 10-12.

The Patriots, who beat Logan 31-27 in the first round of the tournament Feb. 15, struggled with injuries this season. Liberty lost sophomore point guard Emily Perry to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee before the season and junior forward Karla Levering to a fracture in her right leg seven games into the season.

Liberty also was without junior forward Rebekah Hiltz (concussion and broken nose), senior guard Jalynn Guice (illness) and junior guard Maddie Redwine (broken nose) at various points.

"Even with key players going down, they came to practice every day ready to work," Florey said. "They never let that bother them."

The Patriots finished sixth in the OCC-Cardinal at 5-9, behind Olentangy (13-1), Dublin Scioto (11-3), Westerville North (9-5), Westerville South (8-6) and Dublin Jerome (8-6) and ahead of Marysville (2-12) and Westerville Central (0-14).

Liberty loses senior forward Erin Pfeifer and Guice.

"Even though they were competing for minutes, Erin took (Martin) under her wing and worked with her in practice," Florey said. "For a senior to do that for a freshman, in today's scheme of athletics, is kind of rare.

"Jalynn did a great job of accepting her role getting the ball up the court and being our best on-ball defender."

Key players expected to return are junior forward Kennedy Wilke (10.1 points, 2.0 steals per game), Martin (5.5 points, 8.0 rebounds) and Redwine (5.3 points, 77.8 percent free-throw shooter). Wilke made first-team all-league, Martin was special mention and Redwine was honorable mention.

Also expected to return in the backcourt are juniors Riley Long, Molly McPheron and Macy Mullen and freshman Hayley Hickman. Expected returnees in the frontcourt include sophomore Melissa Veerman and freshman Kristen Levering.

Liberty and Marysville will be moving to the OCC-Central next season, joining Central Crossing, Coffman, Davidson, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Westland.

"That league's much stronger than the league we're in now," Florey said. "It's going to be a real battle night in and night out."