Alex Radkiewicz swatted the Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team to a second consecutive league title.
The senior forward was stationed in the paint Feb. 8 when he saw Dublin Coffman's Seth Fuller alone in the corner, preparing to shoot a tying 3-point attempt as the clock ticked down. He raced over and blocked the shot out of bounds with 4.4 seconds remaining.
The Shamrocks threw an inbounds pass to Josh Morrow, whose 30-foot shot hit the rim.
Liberty won 46-43 to capture at least a share of the OCC-Central Division title.
"I saw (Fuller) in the corner all alone and everything slowed down," said Radkiewicz, whose team is 20-1 overall and won the OCC-Cardinal title last season. "It seemed like it took me forever to get over there. I thought for sure that he was going to make it, but somehow I got over and was able to block the shot."
Liberty is 12-1 in the league and leads by one game over second-place Coffman (11-2).
The Patriots trailed 41-38 entering the fourth quarter, but held the Shamrocks scoreless in the final period until Fuller scored inside with 47 seconds to play.
"That's what you want from a late-season game," coach Greg Nossaman said. "You had the crowd. You had the battle for the league title. It was a great tournament atmosphere and it helps get your team ready for the district."
Although the Patriots shut down Coffman's offense, the Shamrocks also played strong defense. Liberty had only two field goals and was 4-for-9 on free-throw attempts in the final period.
"That was one of the worst offensive performances we have had all year long and we couldn't hit free throws, but our kids gutted it out," Nossaman said. "You have to give (the Shamrocks) credit because they did a great job defensively, but we rebounded and played great defensively.
"They were averaging (64.1) points per game coming in, so that's more than 20 points below their average. We may not always hit our shots, but as long as we play good, team defense, we can win games."
Radkiewicz and junior forward Mike DeLeon both scored nine points. Junior forward Zach Nice scored seven, senior guard Tyler Welch had six and senior guard Bo Scheper had five.
Nice had both of Liberty's field goals in the final quarter.
The Patriots close the regular season with a league game Friday, Feb. 15, at home against Thomas Worthington. The Patriots won the first matchup 56-50 on Jan. 11.
On Feb. 5, Liberty defeated Hilliard Davidson 58-36 as senior guard Nick Nossaman led with 12 points, all on 3-pointers, and senior guard Matt Muntean had 11 points. DeLeon scored eight and Scheper added seven.
On Feb. 9, Nossaman scored 16 points in a 64-49 win over Beechcroft. Radkiewicz had 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, junior guard Law Jones had 12 points and DeLeon had 11.
The Patriots are seeded third in the Division I district tournament behind Northland and Westerville North. New Albany is fourth and Dublin Scioto is fifth.
At the tournament draw Feb. 10, coach Nossaman shunned an open bracket to go into the bracket with Northland. The teams could meet in a district final.
"We did that last year with (second-seeded) Walnut Ridge," he said. "You have to beat good teams anyway to win a district, but other than Northland, the highest seed in the bracket is an 11th seed (Westland)."
Liberty has a first-round bye and opens at home Feb. 27 against 23rd-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley or 29th-seeded Canal Winchester.
Olentangy winning without playmaker
Olentangy has won six of its last seven games and is 13-7 overall.
The Braves have won three consecutive games, two without point guard Seth Clark. The senior scored 35 points with seven 3-pointers in a 68-49 win over Watkins Memorial on Feb. 5, but suffered an ankle injury during the game and missed the next two.
"We're hopeful that Seth will be back soon," coach Chris Kelly said.
Without Clark, the Braves picked up two OCC-Capital victories. They defeated Mount Vernon 61-40 on Feb. 8 as senior forward Brett Boggs led with 14 points, senior forward Joe Morycz had 13 and senior guard Erik Brandt added 10.
On Feb. 9, Olentangy needed overtime to defeat Orange 54-49. Senior forward Craig Matthews scored 17 points, senior guard Tyler Sobieray had 13 and sophomore guard Jimmy Gundling added eight.
"We've had some kids step up for us (with Clark being out)," Kelly said. "We have been playing as a team all season and we really picked up our game in the past few weeks."
Olentangy plays at Delaware in its OCC-Capital finale Friday, Feb. 15. Clark scored 31 points with five 3s in a 79-63 win over the Pacers on Jan. 11.
In the OCC-Capital, the Braves are second (10-3) behind champion New Albany (13-0) and ahead of Delaware (9-3).
The Braves are seeded 21st in the Division I district tournament. They open at home against 22nd-seeded Upper Arlington on Feb. 23.
Orange closes with two league contests
Orange was 11-7 overall before playing Thomas on Feb. 12 and is 8-4 in the OCC-Capital.
The Pioneers close the regular season with league games Friday, Feb. 15, at Watkins Memorial and Tuesday, Jan. 19, at home against Delaware.
Orange defeated Watkins Memorial 64-35 on Jan. 11 and lost to Delaware 55-49 in overtime on Feb. 1.
The game with Delaware likely marks the last time senior guard Nick Deitsch and senior forward Declan Feery will play against the Pacers' Mike Wells. The three have played on teams during the summer since they were in fourth grade. Delaware and Orange could meet in a Division I district final, should they progress through the bracket.
Deitsch scored 23 points and senior forward Tyler Dillard added 14 in a 51-33 win over Franklin Heights on Feb. 5.
Orange defeated Big Walnut 48-33 on Feb. 8 as Deitsch and senior post player Brady Harris both scored 10 points and Feery added eight.
In its overtime loss to Olentangy, Feery had 17 points and 17 rebounds, Deitsch had 14 points and Dillard scored 11.
The Pioneers are seeded 18th in the district and open Feb. 23 at home against 30th-seeded Franklin Heights.