Notebook: Olentangy Orange Pioneers boys basketball squad heats up at right time

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Andre Irvin and Orange had won seven of eight games before playing Hilliard Bradley on Feb. 12 in an OCC-Central Division contest. The Pioneers were 11-6 overall and 3-4 in the league.

The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team was 4-5 and had lost two consecutive games, but coach Anthony Calo wasn’t about to panic.

The Pioneers were playing a difficult schedule, in part because of a move to the OCC-Central Division.

Calo’s patience paid off, as his squad had won seven of eight games and was 11-6 overall and 3-4 in the league before playing Hilliard Bradley on Feb. 12.

“People see that Orange was 4-5, and they were probably thinking that we are having a tough year,” Calo said. “We lost five games, but we were in those games. We knew that we couldn’t freak out because we are so close to being an elite program. We’re playing against the big boys so if we just continue to play hard and play together, we’ll get better.

“Our league is brutal. We had losses to Bradley, (Dublin) Coffman (and) Liberty, and (Hilliard) Davidson was playing well before going into quarantine. We lost to (Westerville) Central, so we have played a tough schedule.”

Orange got 21 points from Andre Irvin and 19 from Jason Foster in an 82-62 win over Walnut Ridge on Feb. 6. Eddie Brown had 10 points, Mikey McCollum scored eight and Jack Taylor added seven.

“We have guys getting together and playing well right now,” Calo said. “We have guys like Eddie, who fell out of our core rotation, but he’s practicing hard every day. He has earned some respect and trust in practice, and he’s getting opportunities in games. He has been playing great for us.”

The Pioneers are seeded 11th in the Division I district tournament and have a first-round bye. They play host to 26th-seeded Big Walnut or 42nd-seeded Logan on Feb. 26.

“It’s about our kids being focused every day to get better in practice,” Calo said. “We’re deep, and that’s a good thing because we’re handling it well. We have a core of nine that we play and we are willing to go to 10.

“We have a lot of guys who can play and they are doing a great job. Mikey McCollum and Elias Lewis are sophomores playing well for us. This is the deepest team we have had.”

The Pioneers close the regular season Feb. 19 with a league game at Liberty.

“Our kids have done a good job of staying together and weathering the storm,” Calo said. “The reality is we’re playing a really good schedule. You’ll win some and lose some when you play in a really good league.”

Sam Penzone and Liberty are preparing for the OCC-Capital meet Feb. 20 at Thomas Worthington and the district meet Feb. 27 at Worthington Kilbourne.

•The Liberty gymnastics team is preparing for the OCC-Capital meet Feb. 20 at Thomas Worthington. 

Also in the league are Big Walnut, Davidson, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, Lancaster and Worthington Kilbourne. 

The district meet is Feb. 27 at Kilbourne. 

After finishing third in the OCC-Buckeye and sixth at district last season when it regularly was scoring in the low 130s, Liberty scored a season-best 135.1 during a meet in mid-January. 

On Feb. 3, the Patriots scored 131.6 to win a five-team meet as Hailee Cobb was first in the all-around (34.15), followed by Camryn Thompson (third, 33.65), Katie DiSalle (fifth, 31.9) and Sam Penzone (ninth, 30.8). Thompson also tied for first on floor exercise (8.75) and finished second on uneven bars (8.7), with Cobb winning bars (8.8) and placing second on vault (8.7). 

“This season has been going great,” coach Tara Mays said. “As a team, we’ve improved on perfecting our routines and adding some difficulty on some events. I just want to see them continue to do what they’ve been doing in practice and at meets, continue to be dedicated and work hard towards their team and individual goals, support each other and enjoy their experience as high school athletes.” 

–Jarrod Ulrey

•After losing 3-1 to St. Charles on Jan. 29, the Liberty hockey team won three of its next five to take a 13-13-2 record into the Blue Jackets Cup, which began Feb. 11. 

The Patriots are the third seed for the district tournament and begin the postseason Feb. 21 against 13th-seeded Olentangy or 16th-seeded Beavercreek at Chiller North.

The winner advances to a district quarterfinal Feb. 27 against sixth-seeded Cincinnati Moeller, 14th-seeded Springboro or 15th-seeded Watterson at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

In a 6-1 win Feb. 6 over Thomas, Gage Schlotterbeck had a hat trick and Brian Savage added two goals. 

Liberty then lost 5-2 to Cincinnati St. Xavier on Feb. 7 in its final game before the CBJ Cup. 

Savage had 30 goals and 13 assists, Schlotterbeck had 28 goals and eight assists, Jackson Vojin had 13 goals and 21 assists and Max Lundquist had nine goals and 16 assists through 28 games. Andy Keeler had an .886 save percentage. 

“We’re scoring goals again and we’re goaltending again, so all the way around it’s seemed to come around the past few games,” coach Kevin Alexander said. “We’re still mega-inconsistent, as you can tell by our record.” 

–Jarrod Ulrey 

•The Orange hockey team is seeded fifth in the district tournament, opening in the second round Feb. 20 against 10th-seeded St. Xavier or 21st-seeded Mason at Chiller North.

The Pioneers were the fourth seed in the Blue Jackets Cup and 16-7-0-1 overall before opening against fifth-seeded Dublin Jerome on Feb. 11. The semifinals were Feb. 13 and the final was Feb. 14.

Orange finished fourth (21, 12-3-1) in the CHC-Red behind champion St. Charles (25, 12-2-1). Austin Knupp had 23 goals and 23 assists in league play, while Clayton Headlee had 12 goals and 24 assists and Payton Muth had eight goals and 15 assists. 

–Scott Hennen

•The Berlin hockey team is seeded seventh in the district tournament and opens in the second round Feb. 21 against 11th-seeded Coffman or 24th-seeded Troy at Chiller North.

Berlin was the seventh seeded in the Blue Jackets Cup and 17-6-1 before opening against second-seeded Upper Arlington on Feb. 11.

The Bears finished second (25, 12-3-1) in the CHC-White behind Moeller (29, 14-1-1). Carson Jankowski had 18 goals and nine assists in league play, while Henderson Bishop had nine goals and Nick Piccioni had eight goals and nine assists.

–Scott Hennen

•The Olentangy hockey team enters the postseason having won its third league championship in five years.

Olentangy wrapped up the CHC-Blue title Feb. 6 with a 7-2 win over Gahanna at Chiller North, led by five goals from Landon Johnson. The Braves finished league play with four consecutive wins from Jan. 23-Feb. 7, outscoring opponents 29-10 in the process.

They also defeated DeSales 11-2 on Jan. 23 and 6-2 on Feb. 7 and edged Watterson 5-4 on Jan. 30 in a pivotal divisional game. Olentangy went 11-5 with 22 points, just ahead of Watterson (20, 10-6) in the CHC-Blue.

The Braves were 11-10-0-1 overall before participating in the Blue Jackets Cup consolation tournament from Feb. 12-14.

Seeded 13th of 25 teams in the district tournament, Olentangy will face 16th-seeded Beavercreek in the first round Feb. 20 at Chiller North. The winner will play third-seeded Liberty the next day at Chiller North.

–Dave Purpura

•The Berlin boys basketball team is seeded 29th in the Division I district tournament and opens the postseason Feb. 23 at home against 31st-seeded Hilliard Darby.

The Bears lost to Darby 64-41 on Feb. 2 and 45-42 on Feb. 10 in OCC-Cardinal play. Austin Corley scored 20 points in the second meeting, and Jason Inbody added nine.

The winner plays at ninth-seeded Coffman on Feb. 26 in the second round.

Berlin was 7-11 overall and 0-7 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Marysville on Feb. 12. It closes the regular season with home league contests against Thomas on Feb. 19 and Marysville on Feb. 20.

–Scott Hennen

•Matt Evans and Kelly Holly were named Olentangy’s new girls soccer and boys golf coaches, respectively, on Feb. 5.

Evans, a 2006 graduate of Darby, had coached Jonathan Alder’s girls team for six years. The Pioneers won Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference championships in 2015 and 2016 and a Division II district title in 2015.

Evans, who played college soccer for two years at Adrian, replaces Earl Devanny, who resigned in December after leading the Braves to a Division I state runner-up finish. Olentangy went 18-3-2 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Cardinal, losing to Strongsville 3-1 in the state final.

“It’s an exciting opportunity … and somewhere that felt like home,” said Evans, whose wife, Jordan, graduated from Olentangy in 2009. “I am excited to get going. There are big shoes to fill with where they left off, but I’m confident there is still room to grow.”

Holly succeeds Joel Glassburn, who resigned after 17 seasons. A 2001 graduate of Big Walnut and special education teacher at Olentangy, Holly was junior varsity coach the past five years and also has been an assistant boys basketball coach since 2016.

“I never thought of replacing Joel because Glassburn is a legend and there’s no replacing Joel,” Holly said. “It’ll be a smooth transition because the kids know me and what to expect from me.”

–Dave Purpura

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