The Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball team may have received a wake-up call Jan. 12 at Olentangy Liberty.
The Pioneers had won seven consecutive games before losing a non-league game 51-41 to Liberty, which exposed some of the areas Orange needed to work on before a rematch with OCC-Capital Division leading New Albany on Friday, Jan. 18.
"We weren't playing to the speed that best utilizes our skill set," said coach Anthony Calo, whose team is 8-2 overall. "We sped up our offense too much and (Liberty) coach (Greg) Nossaman did a good job of controlling the pace of the game."
Orange is second (5-1) in the OCC-Capital behind New Albany (7-0), which won the first meeting 68-54 on Dec. 7. Olentangy is third (5-2) in the league, followed by Delaware (4-2) and Franklin Heights (3-4). Big Walnut, Mount Vernon and Watkins Memorial all are 1-6.
The Pioneers' home game against Delaware on Dec. 21 was postponed because of bad weather and will be made up Feb. 18. The teams also play Feb. 1 at Delaware.
Senior guard Nick Deitsch is averaging 19.5 points and has made 28 3-pointers. Senior forward Tyler Dillard is averaging 12.4 points and senior post player Brady Harris is averaging 9.9.
"(Liberty) came out and denied Nick and then we started to rush things on offense," senior forward Declan Feery said. "Then our help-side defense wasn't as effective as it needed to be.
"We need to stay poised when we face adversity. We can't let it affect us in the future."
Entering the matchup with Liberty, the Pioneers were playing at the top of their game. Calo hopes the loss was only a minor setback from which his team can learn.
"We absolutely need to learn from this," he said. "Obviously, we're not as good as we thought we were. We need to use this game as a learning experience because we have a big game Friday at New Albany. We have to be ready then."
Patriots continue winning ways
Liberty improved to 12-1 overall by defeating Orange.
Junior forward Mike DeLeon led the Patriots with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and senior forward Alex Radkiewicz had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
"We have been playing well, but through 13 games I still don't know how good we are," Nossaman said. "These kids come in and work hard every night and play hard in games. We need to work to keep getting better."
The Patriots were fifth in the initial Division I district coaches poll released last week, behind top-ranked Westerville North.
They also are tied with Dublin Coffman atop the OCC-Central at 6-1, followed by Westland (5-2), Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington (4-3), Marysville (2-5), Hilliard Davidson (1-6) and Central Crossing (0-7).
Liberty secured the first-place tie with a 60-51 win over Coffman on Jan. 8. Radkiewicz was 9-for-11 shooting and scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half. Senior guard Tyler Welch scored 12 points, senior guard Nick Nossaman had 10 points and DeLeon added nine points and 12 rebounds.
"Every team we play has been bigger than us, so we have to crash the boards and execute our offense," said DeLeon, who leads the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game. "We weren't projected to even be in the top three in the league, but we have been playing well. We have won five games in the past eight days (after beating Orange). We need to continue to have that kind of effort."
The other leading scorers are Radkiewicz (12.4 ppg), senior guard Matt Muntean (10.2, 18 3-pointers) and Nossaman (9.0, 22 3s).
Braves remain in league hunt
Olentangy is 7-6 overall but 5-2 in the OCC-Capital after victories over Mount Vernon (69-58 on Jan. 8) and Delaware (79-63 on Jan. 11).
Senior guard Seth Clark has been fueling the up-tempo attack for the Braves. He had 26 points with three 3-pointers against Mount Vernon and 31 points and five 3s against Delaware.
"We have a balanced scoring team," coach Chris Kelly said. "We have been playing tough as nails and I think we have a team that will show how well it can play as the season goes on."
Clark is averaging 16.5 points (25 3s), followed by senior forward Craig Matthews (10.6 ppg), senior forward Joe Morycz (8.0), senior guard Eric Brandt (7.8), senior guard Tyler Sobieray (6.4, 15 3s) and sophomore guard Jimmy Gundling (6.3).