Matt Napier and the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team came so close last time that the Patriots don't want to let this one get away.

Matt Napier and the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team came so close last time that the Patriots don't want to let this one get away.

Liberty led Olentangy by one point in the waning seconds of overtime, but a last-second 12-foot jumper by Ben-Michael Welch gave the host Braves a 59-58 victory on Dec. 18.

That shot ... that sinking feeling has stuck with Napier and his teammates for the past five weeks.

Now the senior wants to make the most of his final meeting Friday at Liberty.

"First time, it came down to that last-second shot. It was a heartbreaker," said Napier, whose team was 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Dublin Jerome last Tuesday. "This is possibly the last time that we will play them -- unless we would play them in the tournament -- and we want to go out with a win and we want to go out with that feeling."

The Patriots seemed to have secured the win when a short jumper by Andy Yazrombek was deflected by Olentangy sophomore Josh Perry. The deflection was ruled goaltending to give Liberty a 58-57 lead with 9.9 seconds remaining in overtime. Welch then took the game into his own hands.

"This game is huge because of the rivalry," said Olentangy senior Justin Gingery, whose team was 5-8 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Marysville last Tuesday. "We haven't been playing up to our potential lately, but we, especially the seniors, want to make the most of it in the last time we play (Liberty)."

The Braves have lost five consecutive games with their last victory coming 47-39 over Big Walnut in the Delaware Hayes Invitational on Dec. 28.

"Obviously we've been going through a tough stretch, and it's a great to have a game like this on the horizon," Olentangy coach Chris Kelly said. "It's a fun rivalry and it's always fun to play Liberty because of the great crowds we get at those games."

Kelly was ecstatic after the overtime win, but Liberty coach Greg Nossaman said his players want to experience that same feeling Friday.

Napier led the Patriots with 15 points in the first meeting and Jacob Bischoff added 12 points with three 3-pointers. Yazrombek and Will Cheesman both scored nine points.

Welch had only eight points for the Braves but had the deciding bucket. Johnny Smith scored 18 points and Perry added 12 points.

The Patriots used a balanced attack to defeat Marysville 64-52 last Friday with four players in double figures and a fifth -- Zack Michael -- added nine points. Yazrombek scored 15 points and both Cheesman and Napier had 13 points apiece. Mike Fries had 10 points.

"We try to win games with scoring by committee and by making sure to rebound and play defense in every game," Nossaman said. "If we can continue that kind of scoring balance in the second half of the year, then we should be playing well come tournament time."

In a 71-56 loss to Dublin Scioto last Friday, Gingery scored 24 points with four three-pointers and Smith added 15 points on five 3s.

Gingery has improved his production in the last four games, averaging 16.5 points and he had made seven 3-pointers in his last two games.

He also scored 20 points with three 3s in a 62-50 loss to Westerville North on Jan. 15.

"It took me a while to get into basketball mode (after playing football)," Gingery said. "I got into a slump, but I've started making shots and getting my confidence back."

Orange lost its first OCC-Capital game of the season 59-49 last Friday at Mount Vernon.

"We were down 18-2 in the first quarter and never really recovered," said coach John Betz, whose team was 10-2 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut last Tuesday. "(The Yellow Jackets) kind of got us out of sync and you almost have to play a perfect game to beat them over there. That's a tough place to play."

Before last Tuesday, Orange and Mount Vernon were tied for first in the OCC-Capital at 7-1, followed by New Albany at 6-2, Delaware at 5-3 and Big Walnut at 4-4.

The Pioneers bounced back with a 63-59 win over St. Charles last Saturday.

"St. Charles had two big kids (Dane McLoughlin and Pat McAllister) who were pretty tough to handle," Betz said. "But to play Friday and Saturday and come back after such an emotional battle like we had at Mount Vernon and pick up a win was really what we needed."

Orange was also playing last weekend without its top inside presence, 6-foot-3 forward Jalen Davis, who Betz said left the team for the rest of the season for personal reasons.

"We'll have to make some adjustments and some kids will have to take on bigger roles than they had to in the past," Betz said. "But things like this happen. Still, kids are pretty resilient and they can bounce back."