Whether coach Greg Nossaman has five starters returning or only one, fundamentals are the main focus for his Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team.

Whether coach Greg Nossaman has five starters returning or only one, fundamentals are the main focus for his Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team.

Those building blocks are key ingredients to the Patriots both offensively and defensively.

In his eighth season, Nossaman currently has only one starter back from a team that finished 12-11 overall and placed fourth (8-6) in the OCC-Central Division behind champion Dublin Coffman (13-1). However, he should get a second back later this month.

Brendon White, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, is the lone starter back until 6-4 junior guard Drew Rosi returns from an ankle injury. Rosi averaged 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. White, who has committed to play football at Ohio State, averaged 9.5 points.

"We focus on fundamentals no matter what," said Nossaman, whose team opens with a league game Friday, Dec. 4, at home against Central Crossing. "We can't compare athletically to some of the best teams in central Ohio, so we do things the 'Liberty way.' Some people say that we play 'stall ball,' but we just want to make sure we get our shot. The kids buy into what we are doing."

Anthony Little (6-0, guard/forward) and Spencer Mitchell (6-3, wing/post player) are the team's two seniors. Also on the roster are juniors Jack Barnett (5-10, point guard), Michael Bass (6-2, post player), Brett Buzash (6-5, wing/post player), Even Koknat (6-5, post player), Ethan Novy (5-10, guard) and Trey Stablein (5-10, guard).

Freshman Ben Roderick, a 6-3 guard/forward, also will be a key contributor.

"Novy had a knee injury in April and won't be back until January, and that leaves us with nine (players) right now (until Rosi returns)," Nossaman said. "We have nine guys and all nine are going to play. I think we play good defense and we can do some things on offense."

Nossaman said his team needs to play as a unit. But at the same time, the players must understand their individual duties.

"The chemistry of this group has been really good," Nossaman said.

"We have great kids at Liberty who come out and work hard. ... The thing is, this is the least amount of experience we have had coming back since I have been here. Experience is something of a concern this year, but next year, we'll look to have a lot of experience back."

Pioneers return talented corps

Orange returns a talented nucleus, including its top two scorers from last season in seniors Grant Gossard (6-8, forward) and Colin Shepherd (5-10, guard).

Shepherd averaged 12.8 points and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. Gossard averaged 10.3 points and was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league.

The Pioneers finished 10-13 overall and placed fourth (7-7) in the OCC-Capital behind champion New Albany (13-1).

Also back are 6-4 senior forward Evan Lewis (honorable mention all-league; 5.4 points), 5-9 senior guard Adam Rieger (5.0 points), 6-1 senior guard Josh Smith (7.0 points) and 6-3 junior guard Cameron Barron (6.6 points).

"We have a good group back and every one of them is a threat to score," said fourth-year coach Anthony Calo, whose team opens Friday, Dec. 4, at New Albany. "We have more experience back than I have had here and we were 5-2 in the second half of league play last year. The kids are really buying into what we want to do."

Rounding out the roster are senior Nathan Matthews (6-5, forward), juniors Alex Eha (5-11, guard), Danny Park (5-8, guard) and Zack Stablein (5-10, guard) and sophomore Jack Neer (6-1, guard).

"I think we have a nice inside-outside punch," Calo said. "We have a couple of big guys who can score in the interior and some good perimeter play, so hopefully they will complement each other.

"With our experience, we have the potential to be a good defensive group. I like our group, but central Ohio is so good this year, so we have to play great team defense. We have to be a united defensive team to play with the big boys."

Braves to run fast-paced game

Olentangy lost its top two scorers, but returns four starters from a team that finished 14-9 overall and third (9-5) in the OCC-Capital.

Seniors Seth O'Neal (6-0, point guard) and Derrick Wyche (6-3, forward) are back to help offset the loss of 2015 graduates Jimmy Gundling and Ryan Sieve. Gundling averaged 16.5 points and was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league, and Sieve averaged 10.8 points and was honorable mention all-league.

Wyche was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league after averaging 10.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. O'Neal, who was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league, averaged 8.9 points.

Senior brothers Brandon Mazzeo and Christian Mazzeo (7.3 points) are both 5-11 guards who started several games last season.

"We believe that we will be very good offensively," said 13th-year coach Chris Kelly, whose team opens Friday, Dec. 4, with a home league game against Big Walnut. "We will attack all game and force our opponents to work extremely hard for four quarters. We are a smart and quick defensive team, and will keep teams off-balance by quickly changing defenses."

The Braves have 10 seniors, including Austin Gossett (6-4, forward), Sam Hyberg (6-2, forward), Carter Kinnaird (6-4, guard), Austin Luxedor (6-3, forward), Jacob Walker (6-1, guard) and Cam Wirt (6-1, forward).

"We have a large group of seniors who have been loyal to the program, so we're loyal to them," Kelly said. "Many were injured or played j.v. last season and they could have breakout seasons for us."

Rounding out the roster are juniors Will Elmore (6-0, guard), Greg Hendrix (6-0, guard), Collin Mathews (6-1, guard) and Nathan Riedell (6-1, guard), sophomores Jerred Kinnaird (6-1, forward) and Jason Sieve (5-10, guard) and freshman Sean Marks (5-8, guard).

"We're not huge, so there will be quite a few teams that we go up against who will have a major size advantage," Kelly said. "We have to give them our best 32 minutes and fight through that."

The Braves got a late start because of the football team's postseason run, which ended with a 38-16 loss to Stow-Munroe Falls in a Division I, Region 1 semifinal Nov. 21.