The Olentangy Orange High School boys basketball team is in the midst of a demanding portion of its schedule, but coach Anthony Calo believes it only will make the Pioneers better when the postseason arrives.
Before playing Mount Vernon on Jan. 29, Orange had lost consecutive games against three of the top teams in central Ohio. The Pioneers lost to Liberty 51-41 on Jan. 12, New Albany 54-34 on Jan. 18 and Dublin Coffman 54-47 on Jan. 22.
In the Division I area coaches poll last week, Liberty and New Albany were ranked fourth and seventh, respectively. Entering play Jan. 29, Liberty (14-1), New Albany (15-2) and Coffman (11-3) were a combined 40-6.
The Pioneers were 8-4 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Mount Vernon on Jan. 29.
"We had three losses to three pretty tough teams," Calo said. "We have a tougher schedule this year and the goal is to be playing our best basketball by the end of the season."
The challenging schedule continues this week for Orange, as it travels to Delaware on Friday, Feb. 1, for a league contest and plays host to Northland on Saturday, Feb. 2. Entering play Jan. 29, the Pacers were 10-4 and the Vikings were 16-0. Northland was ranked first in the Division I state poll last week.
"We're close to where we need to be. We're just not there yet," Calo said. "We definitely are going to be battle-tested going into (the Division I district) tournament."
Orange has yet to play Delaware. Its first-round league game against the Pacers was postponed on Dec. 21 because of bad weather and rescheduled for Feb. 18.
The Pioneers will play host to Franklin Heights on Tuesday, Feb. 5, in a league contest. They won 66-44 in the first meeting Jan. 4, as senior guard Nick Deitsch had 23 points, senior forward Tyler Dillard scored 14 and senior post player Brady Harris scored 10.
Against Coffman, Deitsch and Harris both had 14 points.
Orange was scheduled to play Olentangy in a league game Jan. 25 at home, but the game was postponed because of bad weather and rescheduled for Feb. 9.
Entering play Jan. 29, the Pioneers were fourth in the OCC-Capital, behind New Albany (9-0), Delaware (6-2) and Olentangy (6-2) and ahead of Franklin Heights (3-6), Mount Vernon (2-7), Watkins Memorial (2-7) and Big Walnut (1-8).
Patriots face tough OCC-Central tests
Liberty was 14-1 overall and 7-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Marysville on Jan. 29.
The Patriots' league game Jan. 25 at Upper Arlington was postponed because of bad weather and rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2. That means they will be playing league games on back-to-back days, as they play host to Westland on Friday, Feb. 1.
Entering play Jan. 29, the Patriots were second in the OCC-Central, behind Coffman (8-1) and ahead of Westland (7-2), Thomas Worthington (5-4), UA (4-4), Hilliard Davidson (2-7), Marysville (2-7) and Central Crossing (0-9).
"We're looking at a calendar with seven practices and six games, which can be tough," coach Greg Nossaman said. "It's like a mini-NBA schedule."
Liberty endured its only loss through 15 games at the hands of Westland, falling 70-62 on Dec. 21. Senior guards Nick Nossaman and Matt Muntean and junior forward Mike DeLeon each had 14 points and senior forward Alex Radkiewicz scored 10.
"They are a very good team and they probably have the best starting five in the league and can really get things going," coach Nossaman said of Westland. "... (They) can really rebound the daylights out of the ball."
Liberty defeated DeSales 60-38 on Jan. 26 as DeLeon had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Nossaman had 11 points and junior forward Zach Nice scored 10.
Braves preparing for rematch with Eagles
Olentangy will travel to New Albany on Friday, Feb. 1, for an OCC-Capital contest.
The Braves lost to the league-leading Eagles 43-38 on Dec. 21. Senior guard Seth Clark led Olentangy with eight points, with sophomore guard Jimmy Gundling and senior forward Craig Matthews scoring seven and six points, respectively.
The Braves were 9-6 overall before playing Franklin Heights on Jan. 29.
"They have a lot of size, but we were still able to play good defense against them," coach Chris Kelly said of New Albany. "Our inside guys aren't the biggest, but they play tough and work extremely hard. We had them in a tie game with 30 seconds left and didn't finish."