Big Walnut edges Orange 31-24 in OCC Capital defensive struggle

By Gary Henery

February 12, 2014

This one belonged to the respective team defenses.

In a matchup that saw a total of 15 field goals, Big Walnut escaped with a 31-24 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division road victory over rival Olentangy Orange Saturday afternoon on the Pioneers home court.

Steve Palmer’s Golden Eagles, who trailed only twice through the first 24 minutes, held quarter leads of 10-8, 14-13 and 19-17, finally secured the win with a 5-0 run over the final 1:32 for the seven-point margin of victory. With Big Walnut (12-8, 6-8 OCC) trailing the Pioneers 26-24 following junior Mikaela Lyons’ layup with 2:01 remaining, the Golden Eagles got down to the task at hand.

Senior Skylar Fleak, who led all scorers with 15 points, started the game-deciding run with a layin to give Big Walnut a 28-24 lead. Juniors Makenna Hammond, who backed Fleak with 8 points, and Erika Boehm combined to sink three of four free throws in the final 0:46.7 seconds to secure the victory. In its final four trips down the floor, Orange (2-20, 2-12 OCC) came up empty-handed with a turnover, three missed free throws, including the front-end of a one-and-one, and two missed shots in the closing seconds.

“We didn’t play a great game, but the bottom line that we won … that’s what counts,” Big Walnut head coach Steve Palmer said. “Orange did a good job of controlling the tempo and we were unable to adjust to the slower pace. I don’t know whether it was because this was our first Saturday afternoon game. but we seemed to lack our normal energy.”

In the opening half neither team held more than a 4-point lead. Big Walnut led 10-6 in the first quarter and 12-8 in the second quarter. Orange took a 13-12 lead on junior Brianna Barron’s 3-point play with 0:56.9 remaining until the half. The Golden Eagles were quick to answer on junior Kailey Cagle’s baseline basket at the 31-second mark.

The second quarter, which saw a total of 9 points scored, 5 by the Pioneers and 4 by the Golden Eagles, was scoreless until senior Sara Petty sank two free throws at the 2:04 mark for their 12-8 BW lead. Orange finally got on the boards on senior Alexis Werling’s two free throws at the 1:51 mark to trim the Pioneer deficit to 12-10. BW was 1-for-12 from the field while the Pioneers who turned the ball over 7 times in the quarter, were 1-for-10.

Orange made an early run to start the second half, getting four free throws Lyons, who led the hosts with 10 points, to take a 17-15 lead with 3:43 left in the third period. But the Pioneers went scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting and five turnovers the rest of the quarter. The Golden Eagles took advantage thanks to Hammond’s jumper from the top of the key and Fleak’s layin at the 1:01 mark to take a 19-17 advantage into the final eight minutes.

Big Walnut opened the final period with a 6-0 run on two free throws from Hammond, a Cassie Walaszek baseline layup and Fleak’s breakaway basket for a 25-17 advantage with 6:06 remaining. Orange would battle back and close the gap to 26-24 with a 7-1 run. Werling, who finished with 9 points, ignited the run with a 3-point play and a basket before Lyons tallied a layin with 2:17 remaining — setting up the Golden Eagles’ game-deciding finish.

With the win, Big Walnut swept the regular-season series after downing Orange 44-28 back on January 8 in Sunbury.

For the game from the field, the Golden Eagles shot 24.3 percent (9-for-37) while the Pioneers shot 17.6 percent (6-for-34). Both teams were a combined 0-for-12 from 3-point range.

“We were taking some good shots, but obviously we weren’t hitting them … and neither team made a three.” Palmer noted on the Golden Eagles’ shooting.

At the foul line, Big Walnut made 13 of 20 for 65.0 percent and Orange 12 of 15 for 80.0 percent. The Pioneers, led by Lyons with 13 and Werling with 8 rebounds, claimed a 42-24 advantage on the boards. Fleak and Hammond pulled down 4 rebounds apiece for the Golden Eagles.

“I thought we did a good job handling the ball and forcing Orange into some mistakes,” Palmer said, noting the difference in turnovers between the two teams.

Big Walnut turned the ball over 7 times in 47 possessions (14.9 percent), losing 2 points, while Orange committed 20 turnovers in 47 possessions (42.6 percent), giving up 10 points.

“I thought we did a good job handling the ball and forcing Orange into some mistakes with our defense,” Palmer said, noting the difference in turnovers between the two teams. “Overall I thought we did a good job defensively.”

NEW ALBANY 48, BIG WALNUT 42 — The host Golden Eagles jumped out to a 12-4 first-quarter advantage and took a 26-20 lead into the intermission. but only to watch the visiting Eagles dominate the second half en route to last Tuesday’s (February 4) Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory at Sunbury.

New Albany (12-8, 7-5 OCC) came back out and outscored Big Walnut (11-8, 5-8 OCC) 18-10 in the third period to take a 38-36 lead into the final eight minutes. While the Golden Eagle defense held the visiting Eagles to 10 final period points, Big Walnut could only manage 6 points.

Mechela Cobb led New Albany with 15 points. Kaitlyn Gliha and Taylor Snook backed Cobb with 9 and 7 points, respectively.

The Golden Eagles’ Sara Petty and Makenna Hammond, matching Cobb for scoring honors, led Big Walnut with 15 points apiece. Skylar Fleak followed with 7 points.