Since losing four of its first seven games, the Olentangy High School boys basketball team has reversed its fortunes.
The Braves are 9-6 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Capital Division heading into their game Friday, Jan. 25, at Orange, having won six of their last eight games.
Four of their losses have been by five points or fewer, and in a 58-49 loss to Liberty on Jan. 5, the game was tied at 46 with 3 minutes, 28 seconds remaining.
"We had some hard-luck losses and we've really only been out of one game all year," coach Chris Kelly said, referring to a 57-38 loss to Dublin Scioto on Dec. 4. "Our kids work extremely hard in practice and things have started to click in games."
One of Olentangy's setbacks during the past eight games was a 66-64 loss to Hilliard Darby on Jan. 12. The Panthers snatched victory from the Braves' hands, as Nic Baker made a 25-foot 3-pointer as time expired.
"These kids come out and play four quarters for as hard as they can," Kelly said. "They respect the game and respect their teammates, and that leads to success."
Olentangy lost to Orange 55-54 on Dec. 14, as Pioneers senior post player Brady Harris made a putback with 4.7 seconds remaining. Senior guard Erik Brandt led the Braves with 13 points and senior guard Seth Clark and senior forward Craig Matthews both scored 10.
"We have been playing well, but this is a really important game," Brandt said. "We're still in the league (title hunt) and we can't afford to lose any more (league) games."
Olentangy is second in the OCC-Capital, behind New Albany (8-0) and ahead of Orange (5-2), Delaware (5-2), Franklin Heights (3-5), Mount Vernon (2-6), Big Walnut (1-7) and Watkins Memorial (1-7).
Orange senior guard Nick Deitsch had 28 points, including seven 3-pointers, against Olentangy and Harris scored 16.
The Pioneers, who were 8-3 overall before playing Dublin Coffman on Jan. 22, lost to New Albany 54-34 on Jan. 18. Deitsch entered the contest averaging 19.5 points but was limited to five.
Senior guard Brandon Blake had nine points against the Eagles, with senior forward Tyler Dillard scoring seven and senior guard Hunter Jenkins scoring six.
Olentangy has won its past two games. The Braves defeated Big Walnut 78-42 on Jan. 18 behind 21 points from Clark, 13 from senior guard Tyler Sobieray and 11 from sophomore guard Jimmy Gundling.
In a 65-34 win over Teays Valley on Jan. 19, Clark had 22 points and Matthews and senior forward Joe Morycz both scored eight.
"We have been doing the little things that matter like rebounding, making free throws and limiting our turnovers," Clark said. "We just have to stay focused for the rest of the season and get ready for (the district) tournament."
The Braves led Teays Valley 20-14 midway through the second quarter but finished the quarter on an 18-0 run.
Patriots tied for lead in OCC-Central
Liberty is tied with Coffman for first in the OCC-Central at 7-1, ahead of Westland (6-2), Thomas Worthington (5-3), Upper Arlington (4-4), Marysville (2-6), Hilliard Davidson (1-7) and Central Crossing (0-8).
The Patriots improved to 13-1 overall with an 83-54 win over Central Crossing on Jan. 18. Senior guard Sam DeRoy led the way with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Senior post player Alex Radkiewicz and junior post player Mike DeLeon both had 16 points and junior guard Law Jones had 14 points.
Liberty has league games Friday, Jan. 25, at UA and Tuesday, Jan. 29, at Marysville. The Patriots defeated UA 57-37 on Dec. 14 behind 22 points from DeLeon, and they beat Marysville 75-55 on Dec. 18 as DeLeon had 21 points and senior guard Matt Muntean scored 18 points.