Coach Greg Nossaman likes what he has seen from his Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team.
A year removed from winning the program's first league title, Nossaman has watched a group with limited varsity experience win 17 of its first 18 games. Liberty also remained in the hunt for another league title entering an OCC-Central Division game Feb. 5 against Hilliard Davidson.
Up next for the Patriots is a game Friday, Feb. 8, at Dublin Coffman, which was tied atop the league with Liberty at 10-1 before Feb. 5. Westland (8-3) was third, followed by Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington tied at 6-5.
"We only had one starter (senior forward Alex Radkiewicz) back from last season and we had some seniors and juniors that didn't have a lot of varsity experience," Nossaman said. "But they come in ready to work every day in practice to get better. They really have overachieved in the sense of what people expected from them."
Liberty defeated visiting Coffman 60-51 in the first round of league play Jan. 8. Radkiewicz was 9-for-11 from the floor and scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half. Senior guard Tyler Welch scored 12 points, senior guard Nick Nossaman had 10 and junior forward Mike DeLeon had nine points and 12 rebounds.
"They have what we have," coach Nossaman said of Coffman, which was 14-3 overall before playing Westland on Feb. 5. "We both have good guard play and they have different guys stepping up for them every night.
"Our philosophy is to keep teams in the 40s, and if you can do that, you'll win a lot. We just have to stay focused on each game and not look ahead on the schedule."
The Patriots avenged their first loss by defeating Westland 58-44 on Feb. 1, holding the Cougars to their lowest point total through 17 games. Liberty lost to Westland 70-62 on Dec. 21.
In the rematch, Radkiewicz scored 16 points, DeLeon had 15 and Nick Nossaman added nine.
"We didn't want to run with (the Cougars)," coach Nossaman said. "We wanted to work our offense and get a good shot. We like to run, but we take it when it's given to us."
On Feb. 2, Liberty defeated host UA 53-45 as DeLeon led a balanced attack with 16 points. Nick Nossaman had eight points and senior guard Matt Muntean, Radkiewicz and Welch all scored seven.
"(Against UA) we were up five with five minutes left (in the game) and we came down and ran 1:12 off of the clock," coach Nossaman said. "We weren't running out the clock, (but) we were just running our offense to get a good shot. (Radkiewicz) saw (DeLeon) and hit him underneath for an easy bucket to extend the lead to seven."
On Jan. 29, Liberty defeated Marysville 79-56 as Nick Nossaman led with 17 points and five 3-pointers. Senior guard Bo Scheper had 16 points, Welch scored 12 and junior guard Law Jones had 10.
Olentangy comes up short at New Albany
Olentangy was 10-7 overall before playing Watkins Memorial in a league game Feb. 5. The Braves were tied with Delaware for second (7-3) in the OCC-Capital behind New Albany (11-0).
Olentangy lost at New Albany 46-43 on Feb. 1 when a 3-point attempt by senior guard Erik Brandt rimmed out in the final seconds.
"We had a good look for the final shot, but it just didn't go down," coach Chris Kelly said. "We played hard and worked through their zone and even took a (41-39) lead with two minutes to play, but they hit the big shots when they needed it."
Senior guard Seth Clark scored 13 points and senior forward Craig Matthews added 10.
The Braves play host to Mount Vernon on Friday, Feb. 8, and play at Orange on Saturday, Feb. 9, in league games.
Olentangy defeated Mount Vernon 69-58 on Jan. 8 as Clark scored 26 points, Matthews had 13 and Brandt added 10.
On Dec. 14 in a 55-54 loss to Orange, Brandt led with 13 points and both Clark and Matthews added 10.
The Braves defeated Franklin Heights 65-43 on Jan. 29 as Clark led a balanced attack with 11 points. Brandt and Matthews had eight points, and senior guard Tyler Sobieray and sophomore guard Jimmy Gundling scored seven apiece.
"The best thing about these guys is that they keep fighting," Kelly said. "We have played a lot of close games and have been in position to win in 16 of our (first) 17 games. They have shown great courage and effort and they come to practice and work hard every day. They are just a great group of kids."
Orange endures grueling week
Orange played two overtime games in OCC-Capital action and faced the state's top-ranked team in Division I last week.
The Pioneers defeated Mount Vernon 51-48 in overtime Jan. 29, lost to Delaware 55-49 in overtime Feb. 1 and lost to top-ranked Northland 43-39 on Feb. 2.
Orange was 9-6 overall and 6-3 in the OCC-Capital before playing Franklin Heights on Feb. 5. It then plays a pair of home league games on back-to-back days in Big Walnut on Friday, Feb. 8, and Olentangy.
On Jan. 8, the Pioneers defeated Big Walnut 58-44 as senior forward Tyler Dillard scored 23 points and senior guard Nick Deitsch added nine.
In its win over Olentangy, Deitsch scored 28 points with seven 3-pointers and senior post player Brady Harris added 16 points.
Harris had 16 points to lead the Pioneers against Mount Vernon. Dillard had 12 points and senior forward Declan Feery added 10.
Deitsch scored 27 points and Harris added eight against Delaware.
Against Northland, Deitsch scored 12 points, Harris had 11 and Dillard had nine.