There were 13 seniors on the rosters of the Olentangy Orange and Olentangy high school girls basketball teams for the second meeting between the programs Jan. 26.
Similarly to Dec. 15 when the Pioneers defeated the visiting Braves 57-52, the rematch at Olentangy was filled with emotion for the members of the 2013 graduating class because many were teammates when they were younger before Orange opened.
It brought mixed feelings for players like Orange senior forward Mya Walker, who scored 22 points to lead her team to a 64-60 win.
"We just know each other so well, so it's hard to see each other hurting," Walker said. "It's hard for us to play each other."
"We're all still one (school) district and we knew the girls would still be friends at the end of the day," Orange coach Mary Ann Grimes said.
The Pioneers have won the last two OCC-Capital Division championships and entered their game Jan. 29 at Mount Vernon at 10-0 in the league. Their remaining league games are Friday, Feb. 1, against visiting Delaware, Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Franklin Heights and Feb. 8 at Big Walnut.
Olentangy was second in the league at 8-2 before playing Franklin Heights on Jan. 29.
The Braves led Orange 33-26 at halftime of the rematch after making seven of their final eight free throws during the second quarter.
The Pioneers rallied to tie it at 35 with 5 minutes, 6 seconds to go in the third and took a 48-47 lead with 7:20 to play. There were eight lead changes after that.
The biggest plays occurred when Orange senior guard Taylor Agler turned a steal into a three-point play with 1:37 to go and when Orange senior forward Tori Davis scored on a putback with 1.9 seconds left.
"The biggest thing was keeping our heads," Walker said. "I'm excited and relieved. It's the best feeling to be that much closer to winning the OCC. I think it really prepares us for the (district) tournament."
The Pioneers were third in last week's Division I area coaches poll behind Reynoldsburg and Gahanna. Northland, which beat the Pioneers 69-59 on Dec. 10, was fourth and Olentangy was fifth.
The district tournament drawing is Sunday, Feb. 3.
Last season, Orange was seeded third behind Reynoldsburg and Pickerington North but lost to Northland 51-50 in a district final. Reynoldsburg defeated Olentangy 56-31 and Gahanna beat Pickerington North 63-46 in other district finals.
"I thought (the Olentangy rematch) was a great atmosphere and a great, close game," Grimes said. "It just helps you with your preparation going forward. It speaks highly of our team. There's no quit in this dog."
Braves move on after Orange loss
Olentangy won the last three OCC-Cardinal championships before moving to the OCC-Capital this season.
Coach John Feasel is confident his team can bounce back from the loss to Orange even though its chances of winning another league title took a big hit.
"They made their last couple shots and we didn't," Feasel said. "I knew it was going to be that way. We had a couple turnovers at the end of the game. We had five down the stretch that killed us. You've got to go above and beyond to win a game against (Orange).
"We learned some lessons and we'll try to (move on)."
One of the advantages Feasel hoped his team would have against Orange -- depth -- was hindered by a pair of injuries.
Senior forward Katie Heath did not play because of an ankle injury that occurred during a 51-40 win over Big Walnut on Jan. 18.
Then with 4:01 to go in the first quarter against Orange, sophomore guard Morgan Horvath injured her right ankle and did not return.
Senior forward Brooke Zwayer also missed the first two minutes of the fourth quarter after limping off the court.
Zwayer scored 20, senior post player Lydia Hyburg had 16 points and senior post player Megan Beidelman added 12.
"At times they all played pretty well," Feasel said. "All of those seniors and even (freshman guard/forward) Kelly Meade played well. (Beidelman) was kind of forcing it a little, but once she let it come to her she did a lot better. Megan played well, (senior guard Gina) Miccinilli wore out Agler and (senior guard) Courtney Hale gave us some good minutes. We've got a lot of seniors that have battled and been in the trenches. I'd just like to get some better shots."
Patriots in midst of busy week
Because bad weather forced its Jan. 25 game against Upper Arlington to be postponed, Liberty is in the midst of a busy stretch to close the regular season.
Beginning with their game Jan. 29 against visiting Marys-ville, the Patriots were playing four games in eight days.
Included in that stretch is the makeup against visiting UA on Saturday, Feb. 2. The Patriots lost the first meeting 47-32 on Dec. 14.
Following an 8-2 start, Liberty had lost five of six before playing Marysville.