The Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team captured its first district title by defeating second-seeded Walnut Ridge 58-55 in overtime in a Division I district final on March 10 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Liberty, seeded third, improved to 21-2 and advanced to play Newark or Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at the Fairgrounds. Walnut Ridge finished 21-2.
“The kids just hung tough and it was a great team effort,” Liberty coach Greg Nossaman said. “There’s not a whole lot to say. Our kids just battled and they followed the game plan to the T. We had to keep the score low. They were averaging 71 (points) and we felt like we had to keep the game in the 50s. We were right where we wanted it.”
“This is disappointing,” Walnut Ridge coach Jason Bates said. “It was a tough, hard-fought game. Like I told my guys going in, it’s going to be a fight no matter what. At this point, good teams are left. It’s going to be a tough game and we made some plays and didn’t make enough plays.”
Senior guard Jake Bischoff and senior forward Alec Charbonneau each scored 15 points to lead a balanced attack for Liberty. Senior post player Nick Archer had 12 points and junior forward Alex Radkiewicz scored 11.
Senior wing player Roy Alexander led Walnut Ridge with 22 points.
With the Scots trailing 46-43, Alexander made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2.4 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Alexander opened overtime with a dunk and added another 3-pointer to giving Walnut Ridge its largest lead of the game at 51-48 with 2:35 remaining. However, Liberty reclaimed the lead at 52-51 after senior guard A.J. Motika scored on a layup and Bischoff made two free throws.
Charbonneau made a key basket on an inbounds pass from Radkiewicz and Bischoff added four free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal the outcome.
Liberty went 24-for-33 from the foul line, with Bischoff going 8-for-9. Walnut Ridge went 10-for-14 from the foul line.
“We’ve just been grinding out wins,” Bischoff said. “It hasn’t been pretty very often, but this is a prime example of us just grinding one out. We try to get in offensive sets, but it just seemed like there was 10 of them out there with the pressure that they put on us. It just came down to us making plays and making pressure free throws down the stretch.”