The OCC-Capital Division race got a little more intriguing when the Mount Vernon High School boys basketball team knocked off defending league champion Olentangy Orange 59-49 last Friday.

The OCC-Capital Division race got a little more intriguing when the Mount Vernon High School boys basketball team knocked off defending league champion Olentangy Orange 59-49 last Friday.

New Albany has a chance to make things even more interesting on Friday when it plays host to Orange. The Eagles picked up two critical wins last weekend, defeating Hilliard Bradley 73-53 last Friday and Delaware 72-67 in double overtime last Saturday, and were just one game out of first before playing Watkins Memorial last Tuesday.

"That definitely motivates us, knowing that we still have a shot at the league title," guard Sammy Krebs said. "That will definitely get the best out of us."

Entering play last Tuesday, Mount Vernon and Orange were tied for first at 7-1. New Albany, on the strength of its wins over Bradley and Delaware, was third at 6-2. Delaware was fourth at 5-3, followed by Big Walnut (4-4), Bradley (2-6), Franklin Heights (1-7) and Watkins Memorial (0-8).

New Albany coach Sam Davis said it was crucial for his team to get back on the winning track. The Eagles entered the Bradley game on a two-game losing streak, with both losses coming by 12 points or more. According to Davis, the Eagles' confidence was a bit shaken after back-to-back losses to Westerville South (71-58 on Jan. 12) and Mount Vernon (54-42 on Jan. 15).

"(The Bradley win) was really good for us, because we've played two really, really good teams," Davis said. "Our schedule has been tough. The number of combined losses of those two teams (South and Mount Vernon) is six. Our kids got down a little bit, because everybody wants to win."

Krebs said the Delaware win was particularly satisfying.

"We lost a lot of close games like that last year, and it was nice to be able to pull one out," he said.

The Eagles got big scoring performances from three different players last weekend. Perhaps the most impressive was Tommy Smotrich's 25-point outburst against Bradley. Smotrich, the Eagles' sixth man, tied the program record with seven 3-pointers, set by 2006 graduate David Klink. Also against Bradley, guard Ryan Mayle scored 23. The following night against Delaware, forward Nick Sosh had 23 points and Krebs scored 20, which were career highs for both players.

"It's nice to have a bunch of scorers, because we can always go out, and if one scorer's not having a good night, then the others will," Krebs said. "We always pick each other up. It's nice not having just one guy, so if he's cold one night, you don't have to rely on him."

New Albany likely will need to put up plenty of points against Orange, which defeated the Eagles 58-46 on Dec. 18. The Pioneers feature two of the best guards in the league in Zack Joseph and Taylor Rieger, and as a team, were averaging 71.1 points a game.

"Orange has two really good go-to players," Davis said. "Rieger and Joseph are very good high school basketball players. Both of them can handle the ball, both of them can shoot the ball, both of them can create their own offense. And then they're surrounded by very good players."

Davis said it will be critical for the Eagles to stick with Orange early, because the Pioneers are particularly adept at spreading the floor and running the clock when they are ahead. In the first meeting, Orange built a 29-20 lead by halftime and had the game basically out of reach at 44-29 after three quarters. Joseph had 22 points to lead all scorers, with Rieger and guard Jason Hoskins each scoring 11.

Scott McDonald had 17 points to lead the Eagles and Mayle scored 14.