Boys Basketball: Olentangy Liberty preparing to unleash deep lineup

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Senior forward Ty Foster is part of a deep Liberty roster that expects to contend for OCC-Central Division and Division I district championships later this winter.

Although it lost the program’s all-time leading scorer to graduation after reaching a Division I state semifinal in 2019, the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team ended up capturing a league title and winning a pair of postseason games last winter.

The Patriots' depth should be even stronger this season with the return of their top four scorers and the addition of an experienced transfer after they went 18-7.

The OCC delayed the start of its league schedule until Dec. 18, when Liberty will play host to defending district champion Hilliard Bradley to open OCC-Central Division action.

The OCC-Central also includes Orange, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson and Upper Arlington. Last season, the Patriots shared the OCC-Buckeye title with Westerville South at 7-3, while Coffman and UA shared the OCC-Central title with Marysville and Bradley won the OCC-Cardinal.

“We’re very excited with the group we have this year,” senior Henry Hinkle said. “We return four starters from last year, and the addition of Cooper Davis will help us out a lot as well. Our goals this year are to win a district championship and win our league. With the OCC realignment, we have one of the toughest divisions in the area and will have to bring it every night.”

Hinkle is a 6-foot senior guard who averaged 18.5 points last season while earning first-team all-district and OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year honors. He also helped fill the void left by 2019 graduate Ben Roderick, who is now at Ohio University after finishing with 1,817 career points.

Davis, a 6-4 forward, is a move-in from Reynoldsburg who averaged 11 points a year ago while earning second-team all-OCC-Ohio and honorable mention all-district honors.

Senior Andrew Wade has been battling a wrist injury, but the 6-6 post player was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last winter after averaging 12 points.

Seniors Cam Barcus (6-1, forward) and Ty Foster (6-3, forward) averaged nine and 10 points, respectively.

Daniel Buehrer (5-10, guard) and Quinn Foster (6-1, forward) round out the senior class.

Juniors Nick Boysco (6-2, post player), Parker Hinkle (6-1, guard), Rex Kelly (6-0, guard), Trey Majidzadeh (6-1, guard) and Dean Stack (6-1, guard) are others looking to contribute.

“We haven’t had everybody there yet, but a lot of people are in the same boat,” 13th-year coach Greg Nossaman said. “It’s tough to get into the flow. I can’t look at the (league) schedule and say, ‘There’s a win.’ It’s every night. It’s going to be competitive every single night with six really good teams.”

Pioneers motivated

to show improvement

Orange looks to have a different level of intensity as it aims to improve on a season in which it finished 14-9 overall and tied Olentangy for fifth (3-7) in the OCC-Buckeye.

The Pioneers return two all-district performers in senior guard/forward Jason Foster and senior guard Andre Irvin as well as another starter in senior guard Jordan Bethel, who was honorable mention all-league.

The 6-5 Foster was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league after averaging 13.3 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds in addition to shooting a program-record 68.3 percent from the field. Irvin, who was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league, averaged 13.0 points.

Senior guard Johnny Stearns, junior guard/forward Joel Addo and sophomore guard/forward Elias Lewis also are returning letterwinners.

“Both Jason and Andre had good seasons last year, but they both thought they could have done better,” ninth-year coach Anthony Calo said. “We know what Jason is capable of doing day in and day out, but he needs to be more consistent. He would have 25 points and 10 rebounds one game and then have eight (points) and five (rebounds) the next. When he’s at his best, he’s almost unstoppable.

“Andre has been playing at a high level, and he has a chip on his shoulder. He had a decent season last year, but he thought he left a lot on the table. He’s worked really hard and is super-motivated and hungry to have a great season.”

Calo likes the depth of his roster with junior forwards Eddie Brown (6-4) and Aidan King (6-6) coming up from j.v. as well as sophomore guard Mikey McCollum.

Junior guards Luke Johnson and Jake Werling and junior guard/forwards Cam Shinker and Jack Taylor round out the roster.

“We’re going to be aggressive defensively,” Calo said. “We’re going to try to play at a faster pace throughout the game, and that will start with our defense. We want to keep our intensity level high the whole game.

“We have a lot of guys who know their roles. The kids have a good mindset and we hope we get to play soon.”

The Pioneers are scheduled to open OCC-Central play Dec. 18 at home against Upper Arlington.

—Scott Hennen

Braves coach expects

balance, competition

Olentangy coach John Feasel sees a level of competition and parity on his roster unlike in each of his previous four seasons, something he hopes leads to an improvement from last year’s records of 10-13 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye.

Junior guard Ethan Smith (5-9) averaged 10.4 points a year ago and is expected to help lead a balanced roster that also includes seniors Luke Elmore (6-2, guard), Caleb Gossett (6-3, guard), Jack Hennegan (6-4, forward) and Tavian James (6-3, guard/forward) and junior Gideon Alabi (5-8, guard).

“These guys are all pretty close talent and work-ethic wise,” Feasel said. “We knew it would be pretty competitive to a level I haven’t had, with 10 guys getting after it. They understand there are only so many minutes to go around. It’s good. 

“They know if they don’t have a shot, we have other guys they can trust where they can pass the ball and we can create chances.”

Olentangy had 17 games decided by single digits last season, including nine by three points or fewer.

The Braves graduated their top two scorers in Jake Elmore and Josiah Seymour, both of whom averaged 11.7 points. Seymour also added 5.6 rebounds per game.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Matt Kennedy (5-8, guard) and Zach Wieging (6-5, forward), juniors Andrew Boyle (6-2, guard/forward), Will Keller (6-2, guard/forward), Hayden Mosher (5-10, guard) and Austin Sizemore (5-11, guard) and sophomores Reid Apke (6-0, forward), Jack Huskey (5-8, guard) and Harrison Ronnebaum (5-11, forward).

“We have some guys who have been around the block,” Feasel said. “The competition is up a notch and that will only be a good thing.”

Olentangy continues its season Tuesday, Dec. 15, at home against Caledonia River Valley and is scheduled to begin OCC-Cardinal play Dec. 18 at Hilliard Darby.

—Dave Purpura

Senior guard Austin Corley is the lone returning starter for Berlin, which is working to improve on last season's 4-19 finish.

Bears bringing

‘energy’ to court

In his third season leading Berlin, coach Donovon Barrett is seeing a passion that only comes with experience.

The Bears have one starter back — senior guard Austin Corley — as they try to improve on a 4-19 overall record and a 0-14 finish in the OCC-Cardinal.

Corley was special mention all-league, averaging a team-leading 11.2 points. Senior forward Aiden Loeffler (6-4) averaged 3.0 rebounds and junior guard Adrian Stone averaged 4.4 points, and both started some contests.

Another returnee is sophomore Jason Imbody, a 6-4 guard/forward who was a starter until suffering a season-ending leg injury midway through last season.

“I like the energy that they’re bringing,” said Barrett, whose team is scheduled to play host to Mount Vernon on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and open OCC-Cardinal play at Dublin Jerome on Dec. 18. “They take coaching as a group and we’re starting to compete better.

“We’re still not where we need to be, but they’re more vocal and our effort and energy in the gym is light years from where we were year one and even last year. We’re seeing growth, and you want to see that, whether in the classroom or on the basketball court.”

Senior Kalvin Betz and junior Jason Harris are back as guard/forwards, and the Bears have added a presence in the post in Jon Harder, a 6-5, 275-pound standout offensive lineman in football.

“We have more guys who play basketball and multiple sports,” Barrett said. “The success that they’ve had in soccer helps. You can really see it in Austin Corley, and it’s the same thing with the football players.

“A couple of our guys played football and that helped in Aiden Loeffler and Jason Harris. Jonathan Harder played football, and he’s an added plus for us because he has great hands and he can move his feet. His work ethic and coachability is off the charts.”

Seniors Cole Apke (post player) and Cade Latham (guard), junior Abel Abenet (guard/forward), sophomores Mathlos Abenet (guard/forward) and Aidan Ackerman (forward) and freshman Derek Goodman (guard/forward) round out the roster.

“We’ve changed a lot offensively because we have more things that we can do,” Barrett said. “We can shoot a lot faster now, and you’ll see a lot more guys in the movement aspect of it. Our ability to share the ball and have multiple people able to shoot it, that’s a lot more enjoyable.

Defensively, there’s not a lot of changes. We play good, hard man-to-man, and we want to take charges. Last year, we did do a really good job of taking charges, but we have to improve our rebounds on both ends of the floor."

—Scott Hennen

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BERLIN

Coach: Donovon Barrett, third season

Top players: Kalvin Betz, Austin Corley, Jason Inbody, Aiden Loeffler and Adrian Stone

Key losses: Grant Schrieber and Zak Stevens

Last season: 4-19 overall

2019-20 OCC-Cardinal standings: Hilliard Bradley (14-0), Thomas Worthington (10-4), Delaware and Dublin Scioto (8-6), Worthington Kilbourne (6-8), Dublin Jerome and Hilliard Darby (5-9), Berlin (0-14)

2020 postseason: Lost to Gahanna 58-30 in first round of Division I district tournament

LIBERTY

Coach: Greg Nossaman, 13th season

Top players: Cam Barcus, Daniel Buehrer, Cooper Davis, Quinn Foster, Ty Foster, Henry Hinkle and Andrew Wade

Key losses: Tyson Chapman, Kal Jayaraman and A.J. Rausch

Last season: 18-7 overall

2019-20 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty and Westerville South (7-3), Westerville Central (6-4), Westerville North (4-6), Olentangy and Orange (3-7)

2020 postseason: Defeated Mifflin 86-51; def. Northland 63-54; lost to Thomas 70-50 in Division I district semifinal

OLENTANGY

Coach: John Feasel, fifth season

Top players: Caleb Gossett, Jack Hennegan, Tavian James, Ethan Smith and Zach Wieging

Key losses: Austin Brown, Sean Brown, Jake Elmore and Josiah Seymour

Last season: 10-13 overall

2020 postseason: Lost to Thomas 49-47 in first round of Division I district tournament

ORANGE

Coach: Anthony Calo, ninth season

Top players: Jordan Bethel, Jason Foster, Andre Irvin and Johnny Stearns

Key losses: Darius Butler and Ryan Cutler

Last season: 14-9 overall

2020 postseason: Lost to Jerome 45-44 in first round of Division I district tournament