During a five-game losing streak, coach Chris Kelly never worried about his Olentangy High School boys basketball team.
Although they came away with losses, he said the Braves played well until a couple of key moments in the fourth quarter.
Kelly watched his team put things in order Jan. 4, breaking the losing streak with a 74-64 victory over visiting Liberty.
"We haven't been playing that badly, but we just made a couple of small mistakes here and there late in games that cost us," said Kelly, whose team is 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Capital Division. "We've been really close in four of the five losses, and I knew we weren't far from getting wins in those games."
Jimmy Gundling scored 29 points and Seth O'Neal had 26 against Liberty. Gundling had 14 points in the first quarter as the Braves built a 21-8 lead.
"Jimmy is not only an outstanding player, but he has put in the time necessary to be a good player," Kelly said. "It's good to see good things happen for someone who has worked so hard for it."
O'Neal had nine points in the second quarter to help Olentangy lead 37-29 at halftime and 12 in the fourth to help hold off the Patriots. The Braves made 18 of 29 free-throw attempts, including 11 of 19 in the fourth.
"We have to play better defense," said Liberty coach Greg Nossaman, whose team was 5-5 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on Jan. 8 in a battle of unbeaten league teams. "We have to guard the ball (and) put pressure on the ball if we are going to get better."
Ryan Sieve scored eight points for the Braves and Christian Mazzeo added seven.
Zack Nice led Liberty with 19 points and Brad Smith scored 10. Law Jones scored seven of his nine in the fourth quarter and Mike DeLeon battled foul problems and finished with eight points. Jacob Wiseman also had eight points.
"It's a rivalry game, so you have to be ready to play when you step on the court," Nossaman said. "(The Braves) came out ready to play and we didn't."
Liberty lost three games Dec. 27-29 in its KSA holiday tournament in Florida. DeLeon scored 18 points, Wiseman had 12 and Nice added nine in a 78-60 loss to Johnson City (Tenn.) Science Hill on Dec. 27.
DeLeon scored 17 points and Nice added 12 as Liberty lost to Coral Gables (Fla.) 63-53 on Dec. 28. Brad Smith and Brendan White both scored eight points.
On Dec. 29, DeLeon had 13 points and Nice scored 12 in a 66-57 loss to Lake Forest (Calif.) El Toro. Jones had 11 points and Smith added seven.
On Jan. 3, Liberty defeated Hilliard Davidson 55-41 in OCC-Central play as DeLeon scored 20 points and Jones added 14.
"Those teams were three pretty good teams (in the KSA tournament) and we can learn from those games," Nossaman said. "But we won our first five league games, and our first goal is to win the league."
Olentangy lost to Worthington Kilbourne 70-61 on Jan. 3 in an OCC-Capital game and also lost a league game to Big Walnut 69-65 on Dec. 23.
Gundling scored 22 points against Kilbourne. O'Neal had 13 points and Derrick Wyche added 12.
Against Big Walnut, Gundling had 16 points, O'Neal had 12 and Mazzeo added 10.
On Dec. 28, the Braves lost to Westerville Central 82-50 as Mazzeo and O'Neal both scored 10 points and Sieve and Wyche added eight apiece.
"This (win over Liberty) is good for our confidence," Kelly said. "We don't have any seniors and we have five sophomores who are getting a lot of good, quality minutes. This can only help us going forward."
Pioneers look to get on track
Orange was 0-7 overall and 0-4 in OCC-Capital play after losing to Franklin Heights 61-49 on Jan. 3 and before playing Big Walnut on Jan. 8.
The Pioneers closed 2013 with a pair of home losses, falling to Dresden Tri-Valley 48-32 on Dec. 28 and to Mansfield Madison 49-36 on Dec. 30.
Jay Joseph led with 13 points against Tri-Valley. Grant Gossard had nine points and Haydn Audsley scored five.
Against Madison, Colin Shepherd scored 13 points, Gossard had nine and Joseph added six.