The motivation the Olentangy Liberty High School boys basketball team has been feeling as the postseason approaches has translated well on the court.
With a 61-50 victory over Westerville Central on Feb. 8, the Patriots wrapped up the outright OCC-Buckeye Division championship while improving to 8-1 in the league heading into their regular-season finale Friday, Feb. 15, at Olentangy.
Then on Feb. 9, Liberty got a 42-point performance from senior forward Ben Roderick and 15 points from senior guard Nick Nakasian as it won 79-77 at Cincinnati Hughes. The Big Red was seventh in last week's Division II state poll and entered the contest on a 10-game winning streak.
The Patriots view accomplishments such as those as stepping-stones for what they'd like to see happen over the coming weeks.
"We want to have a chance to take the region," Nakasian said. "When we're clicking, it's really hard to stop us. There have been a couple games ... when we've gotten above 20 assists. It's really hard to stop us (when we do that). We want this so bad, especially with last year (when Roderick got injured) and our hopes kind of dropped there. We know this is the year to do it."
The Patriots, who are 17-4 overall, received the fourth seed for the Division I district tournament and open the postseason Feb. 23 at home against 40th-seeded Hilliard Darby.
The next-highest seed in Liberty's bracket is No. 6 Hilliard Davidson, which beat Liberty 64-62 on Jan. 22. The teams potentially would meet in a district final.
"We can put five guys on the floor that can shoot it, and I think we're one of the top teams in central Ohio," coach Greg Nossaman said. "The district is wide open. If we can continue to try to get better, we've got a good rotation."
Helping the Patriots' depth has been the return of senior guard/forward Mitchell Kershner, who missed 12 games with injury but has averaged 7.8 points since coming back.
Liberty has a six-member senior class.
"I'm just happy for this senior group," Nossaman said.
Girls basketball team again to face Braves
On Saturday, Feb. 16, the girls basketball team will try to beat Olentangy for the third time this season when the squads meet in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
The 10th-seeded Patriots will play host to the 32nd-seeded Braves in a rematch of games Liberty won 54-31 on Dec. 4 and 46-39 on Jan. 11.
If the Patriots win, they will play host to 29th-seeded Delaware in a second-round game Feb. 22.
Liberty defeated Westerville Central 44-37 on Feb. 8 to close the regular season at 15-7 overall as Kelly Levering had 12 points, Teegan Pifher scored 10 and Abby Erickson added eight. The Patriots placed second in the OCC-Buckeye at 8-2.
Hockey squad looks to rebound
After losing in the championship game of the Blue Jackets Cup for the third consecutive season, the hockey team will look for better results in the district tournament.
The Patriots are the third seed and open Sunday, Feb. 17, with a second-round game against 19th-seeded Berlin or 22nd-seeded Troy at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller, 18th-seeded Kettering Alter or 21st-seeded Gahanna on Feb. 23 in a quarterfinal.
After beating Orange 7-2 on Feb. 7 to open the CBJ Cup, Liberty beat Upper Arlington 1-0 on Feb. 9 on an overtime goal by Craig Lutwen.
Then in a 3-1 loss to Dublin Jerome in the final Feb. 10, the Patriots tied it at 1 with 11 minutes, 2 seconds left in the second period on an unassisted goal by Nik Jozefiak. The Celtics took the lead for good with 6:52 to go in the second.
"It was a lot of fun and it was a really good weekend," Jozefiak said. "We've just got to keep the same momentum (heading into the postseason). It was a tough loss at the end."
Swimmers advance to district level
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams will compete in the Division I district meet Friday, Feb. 15, at Ohio State.
On Feb. 9 in a sectional at Kenyon College, the boys scored 146 points to finish fourth of 10 teams behind champion St. Charles (299) and the girls were sixth (131) of nine teams behind champion Dublin Coffman (266).
Earning runner-up finishes for the boys were the 200-yard medley relay of John Bently, Isaac Iversen, Alexander Wisler and Christian Hosler (1:39.03) and Bently in the 100 freestyle (46.99), while the 200 free relay of Wisler, Iversen, Eli Grubbs and Christopher Tracewell (1:29.83) and the 400 free relay of Wisler, Andrew Gehring, Blake Overly and Tracewell (3:18.04) both were third. Placing fifth were Tracewell in the 200 free (1:46.69) and Wisler in the 100 butterfly (52.27).
For the girls, Kate Saczawa was runner-up in the 50 free (25.03) and 100 backstroke (59.68), Hannah Beavers was fourth in the 100 back (1:00.33) and 100 fly (59.29) and both were joined by Holly Gabriel and Meggie Gehring on the 200 free relay that was third (1:43.93). The 400 free relay of Amelia Wells, Meggie Gehring, Kirin Loughrey and Sarah Worster was fifth (3:50.98).
At district, the top two placers in each swimming event automatically advance to the state meet Feb. 22 and 23 at Branin Natatorium in Canton. In addition, 16 at-large state berths will be awarded for each swimming event based on times statewide.
Bowlers to battle for district supremacy
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, the boys and girls bowling teams will battle Olentangy, Berlin and Orange to conclude the regular season.
The boys are 3-8 overall and finished 3-8 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division and 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye. The girls are 4-7 overall and finished 4-7 in the COHSBC-A and 2-5 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Freshman Carter Street recently joined the boys after missing time with an injury and averaged 195.4 through his first seven games.
Gymnasts finish third in league
The gymnastics team scored 122.75 in the five-team OCC-Buckeye meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington to finish third behind Olentangy (136.3) and Orange (134.425).
The Patriots went 2-2 in league duals and finished third overall with 12 points, behind Olentangy (20, 4-0) and Orange (16, 3-1). They next compete Thursday, Feb. 14, in the Beauty and the Beast at Orange.
Leading the way in the league meet was Chelsea Naples, who placed third on balance beam (8.625) and eighth in the all-around (31.175). Also in the all-around, Abigail Archer was 12th (30.425), Kenna Henry was 13th (30.05) and Noelle Meeker was 14th (29.65).
"We just had a good meet all-around," Naples said. "We did pretty well the whole meet. Over the last few meets we've gotten a 123 and a 125, so we're really going up there. We did pretty well this meet, too, because at OCC they're more critical of your skills."
Liberty athletes select colleges
During the signing period that began Feb. 6, four Liberty athletes announced their college decisions.
Brady Kuhn will play football for Madonna, Caden Gallagher will compete in men's golf for Ashland, Hannah Roy will compete in women's track and field for Findlay and Maile Steckelberg will play women's volleyball for St. Francis.