Two plays may have changed the complexion of the coming weeks for both the Olentangy and Olentangy Orange high school boys basketball teams.
An errant fast-break, full-court pass by Olentangy and a blocked shot by the Braves helped the visiting Pioneers pull out a 55-54 win in an OCC-Capital Division contest Dec. 14 in front of a capacity crowd.
Leading 54-53 in the final minute, Olentangy went for a quick field goal after collecting the rebound off a missed jump shot by Orange senior guard Nick Deitsch. However, the long pass went off the fingertips of Braves senior guard Seth Clark and out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Pioneers with 38 seconds left.
"We're really good at that play, but the pass was a tiny bit too long," Olentangy coach Chris Kelly said. "We are going to take our best opportunity to win and we thought that play might put the game away. It was just one of 15 plays that if any one of them would have broken our way, we would have won the game."
Another such play came in the game's waning moments, as Olentangy senior forward Brett Boggs blocked a shot and the ball went to Orange senior post player Brady Harris, who made a short jump shot with 4.8 seconds left to put the Pioneers ahead 55-54.
The Braves had a final chance to salvage the victory, but Clark missed a shot from beyond the 3-point line and time expired.
"Brady was great on the offensive glass with nine offensive rebounds," Orange coach Anthony Calo said. "His ninth was the biggest, and it gave us the win."
Harris, who had 16 points and 15 rebounds, and Deitsch, who had 28 points, including seven 3-pointers, led the way for Orange, with senior forward Tyler Dillard adding nine points and 10 rebounds.
Through four games, Deitsch was averaging a team-high 25.8 points and had 16 3-pointers. Harris and Dillard were averaging 14 and 10.8 points, respectively.
Another key player for the Pioneers, senior forward Declan Feery, has appeared in only one game so far, as he underwent an emergency appendectomy Dec. 7. Calo said he expects Feery, who had 11 points in a season-opening 65-39 win over Beechcroft on Dec. 1, to return to action sometime next month.
"It was great for the kids to play in this kind of environment," Calo said, referring to the game against Olentangy. "When the crowd is crazy and loud like it was, (the players) can't hear each other out on the court and it's something they have to learn to deal with. It definitely was a fun environment."
Senior guard Erik Brandt led the way for Olentangy against Orange, finishing with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists. Clark and senior forward Craig Matthews both had 10 points and six rebounds.
Through five games, Clark was averaging a team-high 14.6 points, followed by Matthews (8.8), Brandt (7.8) and sophomore guard Jimmy Gundling (6.6).
"We're still a good basketball team, and we're only a couple of plays away from being 4-1," Kelly said. "There is not one goal that we have set that we still can't reach. We still have a positive attitude even after heartbreaking losses."
Liberty turns up defensive effort
Liberty improved to 3-0 with a 57-37 win over visiting Upper Arlington on Dec. 14.
Coach Greg Nossaman lauded his team's defensive effort against the Golden Bears on a night when the Patriots went 4-for-8 from the foul line and made just three of 15 3-point field-goal attempts.
UA entered the contest averaging 62.7 points.
"I like this team's toughness and I think this is one of the best defensive teams I've had," Nossaman said. "When we get clicking with the defense, we're pretty good. Sometimes the shots don't fall, but we have been getting consistent defensive play and rebounding."
Junior forward Mike DeLeon led the way against UA with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and senior post player Alex Radkiewicz had 10 points.
"We have been pretty balanced in scoring," Nossaman said. "(Senior guard) Nick (Nossaman) led us in the first game (with 15 points in a 47-29 win over New Albany on Dec. 1), Alex led us (with 16 points in an 85-39 win over Central Crossing on Dec. 7) in the second game and Mike led us in the third."
DeLeon was averaging a team-high 14.7 points through three games, followed by Radkiewicz (12.0), Nossaman (9.0) and senior guard Sam DeRoy (8.5).
Liberty will be competing in two holiday tournaments over the next eight days. The Patriots face Millersburg West Holmes in the WKQT Classic on Saturday, Dec. 22, at the College of Wooster before playing in the Erie (Pa.) McDowell Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27 and 28.
"These games give us a chance to go up against different styles than we would see in the OCC," coach Nossaman said. "We'll be playing West Holmes, which has some tough, rural kids, and then we'll have a chance to play a couple of big Pennsylvania schools up in Erie. We'll have to be able to adapt to whatever styles we face."