Olentangy Liberty High School girls basketball coach Ron Florey's concerns as his team began the Division I district tournament Feb. 16 against visiting Grove City proved to be unfounded.
After beating Dublin Coffman 46-39 on Feb. 8 to force a co-title between the Shamrocks and Hilliard Davidson at 12-2 in the OCC-Central Division, the 17th-seeded Patriots didn't produce the focus during practices over the next few days that Florey wanted.
Liberty, however, charged out to a 16-5, first-quarter lead and cruised to a 57-22 win over 26th-seeded Grove City to advance to a second-round game Feb. 20 at 13th-seeded New Albany.
"Our players were euphoric after the Dublin Coffman game that we won, and my biggest fear was that they'd be satisfied," Florey said. "We practiced like we were satisfied, but they came out and played well against Grove City."
The Liberty-New Albany winner plays top-seeded Reynoldsburg or 43rd-seeded Columbus West in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at Bloom-Carroll. The district final is noon March 2 at the same site. Reynoldsburg was 21-2 and West was 0-21 entering their matchup.
The Patriots were 14-8 before playing New Albany, which beat Thomas Worthington 41-30 in its tournament opener Feb. 16 to improve to 15-8.
Freshman guard Alexa Fisher scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half and senior forward Kennedy Wilke had eight of her 12 in the first half against Grove City.
Of the 15 players who dressed for Liberty, 11 scored.
"I thought we did a nice job of rebounding," Florey said. "We took a season-high 65 shots and just came out and got off to a good start. Our third quarter was, I think, our best quarter. We didn't get to the free-throw line much, only five times, but we were just hitting outside shots. I told them that Grove City was going to stay in a 2-3 zone and the way to beat them was to hit shots."
Braves put clamps on Darby in opener
With better health and a focused defensive effort, Olentangy put together a season-best defensive performance in beating visiting Hilliard Darby 67-19 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 16.
The Braves, who were seeded seventh, played host to 21st-seeded Mount Vernon in a second-round game Feb. 20.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Westerville North or ninth-seeded Pickerington North in a district semifinal at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at Jonathan Alder. The district final is 6 p.m. March 6 at the same site.
Sophomore guard Morgan Horvath and senior forward Katie Heath, both of whom have been battling injuries, scored eight and two points, respectively.
Senior guard Brooke Zwayer led with 14 points and senior forward Megan Beidelman added 10 for the Braves, who were 19-4 before playing Mount Vernon.
During the regular season, Olentangy defeated Mount Vernon 62-24 on Jan. 8 and 61-38 on Feb. 8 in OCC-Capital play.
"This was the second game in a row that we had all of our players and we're starting to click a little defensively," coach John Feasel said. "When you have two or three players out it's harder to keep that defensive intensity for 32 minutes. It was a good chance for everybody to contribute. We're starting to feel healthy."
Westerville North was 22-1 and Pickerington North was 15-8 heading into their matchup.
Last season, Pickerington North coach Dave Butcher had a string of 23 consecutive district championships snapped when his team lost to Gahanna 63-46 in a district final.
Olentangy also was a district runner-up.
Orange beats Whetstone to begin tourney
Orange also had no trouble in its district tournament opener.
On Feb. 16 against visiting Whetstone, the Pioneers built a 35-3 first-quarter lead and won 83-40 to advance to a second-round game Feb. 20 against 39th-seeded Chillicothe.
The Chillicothe-Orange winner plays 11th-seeded Zanes-ville or 20th-seeded Teays Valley in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at Hilliard Davidson. The district final is 3 p.m. March 2 at the same site.
Orange was 20-2 before playing Chillicothe and was the highest seed in its bracket at No. 3.
"Really the team overall played like it was any other game," coach Mary Ann Grimes said. "In the first quarter they got off to a good start. Even with all of the substitutions, they helped each other."
Senior guard Taylor Agler finished with 18 points, 14 assists and 10 steals while committing no turnovers.
Senior forward Mya Walker was the leading scorer with 19 points and senior guard Maddy Joseph and senior forward Tori Davis each scored 10.
The game marked the return of Joseph from a knee injury that occurred during a 61-42 win over Fairfield Union on Feb. 4.
"We've been working hard on our defensive concept and the mindset we need to have on defense," Grimes said. "We've needed to work just on the basic fundamentals of each kid because that's an area we can improve on. The communication was a lot better between teammates and there was a lot more talking (against Whetstone)."