Sophomore guard Erin Boehm led the Big Walnut girls basketball team during a 9-0 run in the final minute and five seconds to turn a five-point deficit into a 54-50 victory over rival Olentangy Orange.
Boehm led the Golden Eagles in their home-opener with 18 points and 10 steals and sank three of her four free throws down the stretch Saturday afternoon (Dec. 3) in Sunbury.
“I think our defense really helped us get into the game in the last quarter,” she said. “We got up and pressed them and got five turnovers.”
BW had deficits of 10 points twice in the first half and trailed by nine points with five minutes left in the game.
“Last year, when things didn’t go our way, that 10 started going to 12, 13, 15, 18 and next thing you knew, we gave up,” Eagles coach Steve Palmer said.
BW didn’t give up. It’s stingy defense, which racked up 24 steals, kept it close throughout.
Katie Neff, Paige Norman and Taryn Hammond, who had a steal and assisted on a Boehm layup to cut the deficit to one with 39 seconds left, made key plays.
“I thought Paige Norman was a rallying point for us,” Palmer said. “In the third quarter and early fourth quarter, she was getting down and getting after it. I thought she set the tone.”
Boehm pick-pocketed her 10th of the game to set up Kelly Kreager’s tying and go-ahead free throws with 22.2 seconds left -– giving the Eagles their first lead of the game since 3-0 just 1:41 into the action.
“She’s only a sophomore, but she’s our leader,” Palmer said.
It was Kreager’s only two points of the game, but she finished with four rebounds and three steals. Katie Cochran led the Eagles (2-0) with six rebounds and Boehm added five.
“We were our own worst enemy,” Pioneers coach Bob Scott said. “(BW) pressured us and we didn’t handle it well. We just didn’t get to the foul line enough and when we did, we didn’t make enough.”
Sophomore Aurelia Johnson led the Pioneers with a double-double as well. She had a team-high 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in her varsity debut.
“She played well for her first game out of the gate,” Scott said. “We knew about her –- everybody else didn’t know about her because she played JV last year. She’s improved a lot –- she stepped up.”
Johnson and McKenna Ford paced an early 15-2 run for Orange. Ford got the rally started with a converted three-point play. Johnson and Ford each hit threes during the rally to gave the Pioneers a 15-5 lead with 1:11 left in the first.
Niaomi Lee and Taylor Myers pushed the lead back to 10 on back-to-back baskets with just over a minute left in the second quarter. Lee led the Pioneers with five steals to go with six points and four rebounds.
Each time BW was able to keep it close. The Eagles trailed 15-10 after one and 28-23 at the break.
“I’m excited for the kids,” Palmer said. “I thought our kids really played well as a team.”
Hannah Sargent scored all five points to push the lead back to eight with 4:27 left in the third. Sargent finished with nine points, five blocks, four rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Pioneers (0-1).
“It’s one game,” Scott said. “That’s the first game of the year and we understand why we lost and what we did to lose – we can fix those things. The effort was great. We just didn’t finish at the end and that’s what we have to work on.”
Emily Neff, Boehm and Norman each had baskets to cut the deficit back to one before Megan Erickson’s two free throws gave Orange a 40-37 edge through three.
Next up, both teams open league play Tuesday night (Dec. 6) at 7:30 p.m. BW travels to Groveport-Madison in OCC-Capital action and Orange plays its home-opener against Westerville North in OCC-Buckeye-play.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.