The Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team has been doing the little things needed to win.
Rebounding, aggressive defense and balanced scoring helped the Patriots win nine of their first 10 games entering an OCC-Central Division contest Jan. 8 against Dublin Coffman.
"We have good chemistry," coach Greg Nossaman said. "We have nine guys we can depend on and who can play. We have six seniors and three juniors who distribute the ball well and we have different combinations we can use. We can go big or small and press or trap. We can have a lot of looks."
Nick Nossaman, the coach's son, said the Patriots have been getting the most from their talent, including Jan. 5 when a late surge broke open a tie game with Olentangy and led to a 58-49 victory.
"We're playing hard and rebounding a lot better," the senior guard said. "We had a lot of big guys last year, but we're not as big this year, so we need to crash the boards and we did that (against Olentangy). Despite our size, we have outrebounded every team we have played (through 10 games)."
Junior post player Mike DeLeon led a balanced attack against the Braves with 19 points. Nossaman scored 12 points, senior guard Tyler Welch had nine and senior guard Matt Muntean and senior forward Alex Radkiewicz added seven apiece.
"Having balanced scoring helps because it causes trouble for teams trying to prepare for us," Radkiewicz said. "When you're balanced, you're harder to stop. Anyone can score 15 points for us on any given night."
That was apparent Jan. 4 when Liberty defeated Hilliard Davidson 60-37 in a league game. Junior post player Zach Nice, who totaled eight points in Liberty's first eight games, was 5-for-7 from the floor to lead the way with 11. Radkiewicz had 10 points and Welch added eight.
Liberty and Olentangy were tied at 46 with 3 minutes, 28 seconds to play, but the Patriots limited the Braves to just three free throws the rest of the way. Liberty held Olentangy without a field goal over the final five minutes.
"Every time we play each other, the records don't matter," coach Nossaman said. "The kids know each other so well. Both teams know what to expect.
"You can't learn anything when you win by 20 points. You have to grind things out, and we had to do that when it was 46-all with 3:28 to play."
Senior guard Seth Clark led Olentangy with 11 points, senior guard Erik Brandt had 10 and senior forward Joe Morycz had nine. Senior forwards Brett Boggs and Craig Matthews added six points apiece.
"Once (Clark) got rid of the ball, we tried to deny him because we knew he wanted the ball back," coach Nossaman said. "They like to spread the defense and penetrate, and we tried to take that away. They also like to shoot the 3 and I thought we did a great job on the perimeter."
The Braves dropped to 5-5 overall before playing Mount Vernon on Jan. 8 in an OCC-Capital game.
"We have lost four games that could have gone either way, and this was one of them," coach Chris Kelly said of the Liberty game. "We had a lot of opportunities to win the ballgame and didn't. That's tough to take. We have 22 games (in the regular season) and then the tournament, so we have time to work things out. We have a good team that hasn't learned to make plays when we need it."
Orange off to strong start
Orange was 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Jan. 8.
The visiting Pioneers defeated league rival Mount Vernon 41-35 on Dec. 18. The teams tied for the OCC-Capital title last season at 11-3.
Senior forward Tyler Dillard led Orange with 12 points, senior guard Brandon Blake scored nine and senior post player Jarrod Gilliam added eight.
A league game against Delaware on Dec. 21 was postponed because of bad weather. The Pioneers defeated Franklin Heights 66-44 in a league game Jan. 4 as senior guard Nick Deitsch scored 23 points, Dillard had 14 and senior post player Brady Harris added 10.
Deitsch led with 21 points in a 51-40 win at Mansfield Madison on Jan. 5.
Through seven games, Deitsch was averaging a team-best 23.1 points, followed by Harris (12.8) and Dillard (10.7). Deitsch also had made 23 3-pointers.