After a frustrating preseason in which Olympus came up on the short end of nearly every close game, region action has played out much differently.
Olympus rallied past Highland in overtime Friday night, 56-54, to improve to 5-0 in Region 6. Three of those wins have been decided by four points or less, a stark contrast to the preseason.
Olympus coach Whitney Jenkins credits her team’s win over 6A’s Mountain Ridge in the final region tune-up as the turning point, a game her team showed the necessary poise down the stretch.
“We’ve been in every game and we’ve shown that we’re competing with teams, so Mountain Ridge was a big help to realize we can do this and we have the keys to success,” Jenkins said.
Defense was the key on Friday as Olympus held Highland scoreless over the last 5:03 of the fourth quarter, closing regulation on a 5-0 run.
The Titans also benefited from a bit of good fortune.
Highland was in prime position to win the game with 1.2 seconds left with its top scorer and free throw shooter, Sosefina Langi, stepping to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1. She was in that position after being fouled on a defensive rebound at the other end of the floor after Olympus’ potential game-winning baseline jumper rimmed out.
Jenkins called a timeout prior to Langi’s free throw, and in addition to defusing a few tears on the bench, she stressed the importance of boxing out because the game wasn’t over.
“Honestly if I’m Highland, that’s who I want at the line, and I would have complete confidence for her to hit that shot, but unfortunately for her it worked out in our favor,” said Jenkins.
Langi missed the free throw, and Olympus corralled the rebound to force overtime.
In overtime, Olympus scored on six straight possessions to open up a 54-47 lead with under a minute remaining. Senior Avie Karren started the scoring output with a 3-pointer, the first of the game for Olympus’ top 3-point shooter.
“She was having a rough night, and I think that was huge for her and everybody else,” said Jenkins. “Obviously if you hit a 3 in overtime, you just feel that whole momentum shift.”
Despite falling behind by three possessions with under a minute remaining, Highland scrapped back and cut the deficit to 56-54 as Langi made three foul shots after being fouled on a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Olympus successfully inbounded the ball and dribbled out the clock for its sixth straight victory.
Joss Baker led the way for Olympus with 20 points, with Keily Trabanino chipping in with 15. Cecilia Olevao led Highland with 18 points, with Sophia Legate adding 16 on three 3-pointers.
The Rams fell to 3-2 in region play with the loss, but in the second quarter it looked poised to potentially run away with the game.
Trailing 15-9 early in the second quarter, Highland locked things down defensively, forcing one turnover after another as transition buckets sparked a 15-0 run to give the Rams a 24-15 lead.
Olympus cut the deficit to 25-21 by halftime and methodically kept chipping away at the lead in the second half. It never led though in the second half before finally regaining the lead in overtime on Karren’s 3-pointer.
It never relinquished it.
“We slowed down, made the easy pass, didn’t force anything,” Jenkins said. “We weren’t doing things out of our normal routine, and they capitalized on the stuff we do in practice.”