In a battle between two of the state’s top three-ranked Division I teams, Olentangy got strong play from 6-2 freshman center Sydney Mobley and her supporting cast to edge Marysville 49-48 before a sellout crowd.
Marysville, OH – For all intents and purposes, the Olentangy girls basketball team is immersed in midterm exams right now.
The past six days have been a grind for the Braves – top-ranked in both the Associated Press and MaxPreps RPI Division I state polls. They beat Chillicothe Unioto (seventh-ranked in Division II) and Bellbrook by identical 65-63 scores in the Classic in the City last weekend at Pickerington Central.
On Friday, Olentangy edged third-ranked Marysville, 49-48, in a captivating Ohio Capital Conference Cardinal Division showdown before a boisterous sellout crowd at Alumni Hall.
The Braves will tangle with intra-district rival Olentangy Liberty (11-4, 6-0 in the OCC Central) at 6 p.m. Saturday in an all-day, multiple-game girls event at Olentangy Orange.
When will the madness ever end for Olentangy (15-0, 6-0), which beat each of its first 12 opponents by double figures?
“I can’t take much more of this,” joked Olentangy second-year coach Jamie Edwards after the latest heart-pounder.
But deep down, Edwards knows these tough games will prepare his team for what awaits later in February and perhaps March as Olentangy embarks on what it hopes will be a historic tournament run.
And right now, the Braves are learning to win without leading scorer sophomore point guard Whitney Stafford, who is sidelined for two weeks with a partially torn labrum in her right (shooting) shoulder.
“With Whitney out, a lot of roles are changing and different girls are being asked to step up,” Edwards said. “To be able to come out on top tonight in a regional final-type of atmosphere says a lot about the makeup of our team, and especially the kind of depth we have.”
Olentangy won the first meeting 59-49 on Dec. 1, but the rematch – perhaps equalized by Stafford’s absence – was even better. It was a two-possession game from the outset with 10 lead changes and nine ties.
An ice-cold three-point shot by Abbey Price off a brilliant pass from JoJo Eberhart with 55 seconds left pushed Marysville into a 48-48 tie.
Double- and triple-teamed all night, 6-foot-2 freshman phenom Sydney Mobley drew a foul and sank 1 of 2 foul shots at the 28.5-second mark, giving Olentangy a one-point lead.
A wild sequence of steals/turnovers left Braves junior Chayla Rankin at the line with six seconds left, but she missed both.
With plenty of fouls to give, Olentangy tactically fouled with 1.6 seconds left to keep Marysville from getting an open shot.
Price caught the ensuing inbounds pass just beyond the free throw line but her 17-footer rimmed out.
“That game definitely was really, really wild,” Rankin said. “Their crowd was noisy and we had to keep our composure and persevere. Not having our point guard was a change and it gave us a different perspective.”
In the absence of Stafford, who is averaging a team-high 16.7 points with 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 3.7 steals, Marysville focused its attention on Mobley, who is rated as one of the top freshmen in the nation and already holds nine Division I scholarship offers. But in addition to averaging 16.1 points and 12.6 rebounds, Mobley often handles the ball and is a deft passer dishing out 3.0 assists per game.
“Playing without one our biggest assets in Whitney was different, for sure, but it was like any other game with multiple people hanging on me,” Mobley said. “You’ve just got to keep in mind that when people are hanging all over you somebody else is open and we’ve got plenty of players who step up.”
Mobley, whose first cousin Alexia plays for Louisville, finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Rankin contributed 10 points and seven rebounds while Mia Chirpas added 10 points and six boards off the bench.
“Chirpas was our player of the game,” Edwards said. “She came off the bench and handled their press so well and she guarded so many people well tonight. Rankin has really come along this season, too.”
Allison Price hit five three-point shots and scored 20 points to pace Marysville (12-3, 4-2), which advanced to its first regional final last season before falling to Pickerington Central. Eberhart, a returning first-team All-Ohioan, totaled nine points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists before fouling out with six seconds left. Abbie Price had nine points and five assists. The Price sisters transferred in from North Union where both made second-team all-district.
Marysville, which thrives on making the extra pass out of its motion offense, relies heavily on three-pointers and got nine Friday.
“I don’t think we were very consistent tonight and we missed shots that we usually make,” Monarchs coach Klarke Ransome said.
“We definitely weren’t as committed as we needed to be to come away with the win. Losing this one is going to make it tough on us to win our league again, but we’ve got some other goals ahead of us. We’ve just got to focus on us and being a better basketball team by mid-February.”