Featuring one of the state's top players and a strong senior class surrounding him, the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team put together the greatest season in program history last winter.

The Patriots savored the experience of making it to their first Division I state semifinal, where they lost to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 58-49 to finish 24-5 overall.

That memory also influenced how Liberty is attempting to refocus for this season.

"We try to have a saying each year based on what we're getting ready to do, and we've just said, 'own the moment,' " 12th-year coach Greg Nossaman said. "Last year is over. Just worry about what's going on this particular moment and enjoy it. It was such a good time last year, but it does come to an end. People always worry about the destination, but it's about the journey, traveling on the road together, being on the bus together."

Liberty, of course, is hoping that some of the winning that took place carries over into this season.

After opening Nov. 30 with a 76-65 loss to Springfield in the All-Ohio Nike Showcase at Pickerington North, the Patriots begin OCC-Buckeye Division action Friday, Dec. 6, at Orange.

The only returnees who saw significant action last season are 5-foot-11 junior point guard Henry Hinkle and 6-5 senior forward Kal Jayaraman, who averaged five and three points, respectively as Liberty won the league title at 9-1 and captured its second district title.

The other seniors are Colin Brenner (6-4, forward), Tyson Chapman (5-10, guard), Tyler Nicholas (6-1, guard), A.J. Rausch (5-10, guard) and Sylvester Warren (5-8, guard). All will be among the key players for the first time.

Juniors Cam Barcus (6-1, guard), Daniel Buehrer (5-9, guard), Quinn Foster (6-0, guard), Ty Foster (6-2, guard) and Andrew Wade (6-5, forward) are others looking to contribute.

There also are 12 freshmen and eight sophomores in the program.

"We have a lot of new guys, but they all play hard and we're still learning to play together," Hinkle said. "Our goal is always to win the league. Really any team could win it this year, I think. We need to take practice day by day and prepare for every game. It will take time to gain better chemistry, but I think we have the talent to win it."

Leading last year's march to uncharted program success was 2019 graduate Ben Roderick, who is now playing for Ohio University.

After missing the final seven games of his junior season as the Patriots went 11-13, Roderick averaged 27.5 points last winter. He was the Player of the Year in the district and OCC-Buckeye and a first-team all-state honoree, as he finished his prep career with 1,817 points.

Nick Nakasian, who is playing for Carnegie Mellon after averaging 16 points; Mitchell Kershner, who averaged nine points and is now playing for Rochester; Joey Thatcher (8 ppg), Llwyatt Hofer and Jack Metzger also were key players in the 2019 graduating class.

In its non-league slate, Liberty will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, for a tournament Dec. 27 and 28 and play Gahanna (Jan. 7), Mansfield Senior (Jan. 11), defending Division III state champion Harvest Prep (Jan. 18) and Huber Heights Wayne (Jan. 25).

"We've still got a pretty good schedule," Nossaman said. "Orange and Westerville Central are probably the top two teams (in the OCC-Buckeye) and everybody else is pretty equal. It's always our goal to win the league and get to the district finals and we'll continue to try to do that again, but the big thing is to try to get better each day and enjoy the moment."

Most of boys bowling team has returned

First-year coach Steve Nole has modest goals for the boys bowling team.

After going 5-10 overall last season, including 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye and 3-8 in the COHSBC-A, the Patriots have returned many of their top competitors.

Liberty's season ended with a 34th-place finish (3,108) at the Division I sectional.

"(We) just (want to) do well in tournaments and be in the middle of the pack as far as the league is concerned," Nole said. "We've got a young team."

Nole, who was an assistant the past 10 seasons, took over after Linda Ridolfo stepped down following 12 years leading the program.

"They needed a coach and I wasn't ready to give things up," said Nole, who also previously served as a wrestling official for 35 years in the Central District. "I enjoy being with the guys and the girls."

There are 14 boys competing. During a 1,981-1,527 victory over Watterson on Nov. 26 to open the season, juniors Nick Bateson, Matthew Lawrence, Patrick McDowell and Brenden Sheehan and sophomore Carter Street each competed.

Sophomore Ethan Shek is another looking to contribute.

Street, who averaged 204.3 in 12 games in last year's regular season but did not compete at sectional, led the Patriots with a 421 against Watterson.

In the sectional last season, Bateson rolled a 501 and Sheehan had a 489 to lead Liberty.

Girls bowling team has three competitors

With only three competitors, the girls bowling squad won't have enough competitors to post a team score in matches this winter.

Senior Breanna Withrow led Liberty with a 444 in the Division I sectional last season and has returned along with senior Stefanie Greeno, who rolled a 348 at sectional.

Also competing is junior Emily Williams.

Liberty went 4-11 overall and was 1-8 in the COHSBC-A and 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye last season when 2019 graduate Lauren Suhodolsky was among its top competitors.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, hockey and swimming & diving teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 6 -- At Orange

Dec. 10 -- Home vs. Marysville

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 6 -- At Orange

Dec. 10 -- At Marysville

BOWLING

*Dec. 6 -- Westerville Central at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

*Dec. 9 -- New Albany at Sawmill Lanes

*Dec. 11 -- Delaware at Colony/Penn Lanes

HOCKEY

Dec. 6-8 -- Adam Allgeyer Memorial Showcase at Chiller Dublin

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 6 -- Diving meet at Ohio State

Dec. 7 -- At Upper Arlington

*League contest