It took coach John Feasel seven years to get the Olentangy High School girls basketball team to where it is now.

It took coach John Feasel seven years to get the Olentangy High School girls basketball team to where it is now.

With a 57-53 victory over defending OCC-Cardinal Division champion Dublin Scioto last Friday, the Braves were 10-4 overall and 7-2 in the OCC-Cardinal and had sole possession of first in the league with five games remaining, including a contest against Marysville last Tuesday.

But the Braves realize their hopes for a league title could be derailed with just one bad game.

"We're going to celebrate tonight, but tomorrow I'm going to tell the girls that the next game is bigger than (Scioto)," Feasel said after the win over the Irish, an opponent the Braves had not beaten during his seven-year tenure. "Once you're on top, everybody wants you and you have to be prepared."

Olentangy's next two OCC-Cardinal games are Saturday at home against Liberty and Tuesday at Dublin Jerome.

The Braves defeated Liberty 60-35 on Dec. 19 behind 15 points from wing Olivia Zwayer and 13 from wing/post player Christine Delaney. Forward Allyson VanGundy and post player Brittany Wex each scored 10 points to lead the Patriots, who dropped to 2-11 overall and 1-8 in the OCC-Cardinal with a 74-37 loss to Marysville last Friday.

"The Liberty game will be incredible," Olentangy guard Nicole Payne said. "They're one of our biggest rivals. But having Delaney back makes us feel like we have a chance at winning the OCC."

Delaney suffered an ankle injury earlier this month and returned to the lineup against Scioto, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds.

"Christine told me if she didn't start, she was going to kick my butt," Feasel said. "That's what you want. You want your seniors to stand up and be a leader."

Olentangy relied on its free-throw shooting and a solid fourth quarter by Payne to avenge a 46-42 loss to the Irish on Dec. 8. The Braves made 25 of 35 free throws, including 12 of 18 in the fourth quarter.

Payne went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final two minutes. She scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that increased the Braves' lead to 47-37 with six minutes remaining, and had two of her team-high seven rebounds in the last minute.

"I was struggling in the first three quarters, but when it started getting close I knew I had to step it up," Payne said.

Orange hopes to establish itself in the post and hit 3-pointers when it plays host to New Albany on Friday in an OCC-Capital contest.

The Pioneers, who rode a seven-game winning streak into their league contest against Big Walnut last Tuesday, lost to New Albany 58-43 on Dec. 18.

Forward Kelsey Lewis had 15 points to lead Orange. The Eagles were led by wings and Miami University-signees Hannah Robertson and Haley Robertson, who scored 22 and 18 points, respectively.

"We've really turned things around as we go into the second-half stretch of the season," coach Amber Bollinger said. "Our 3-point game is coming on and our inside-out game has freed up our guards and our post players and is working well."

Orange, which was 12-2 overall and 7-2 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut last Tuesday, has shot well both inside and on the perimeter in recent games. Lewis had averaged 13.8 points in the four games prior to last Tuesday and the Pioneers had made 17 3-pointers in that same span.

"We're working better as a whole and we are getting better with each game," Lewis said. "It's been a great team effort. The more we work together, the more it frees up things for the posts."

If the Pioneers are going to avenge the loss to New Albany, they must find a way to contain the Robertson sisters, who combined to score 68.9 percent of their team's points in the first meeting.

In the previous five games before last Tuesday, Hannah Robertson averaged 19.8 points and Haley Robertson averaged 15 points. The Eagles were 11-3 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Watkins Memorial last Tuesday.

"New Albany is obviously a great team," Bollinger said. "They have the Robertson girls, who are just phenomenal athletes. We have to be able to play better defense than we did the first time around."