Notebook: 'Found a way to win' becomes norm for Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Cooper Davis and Liberty attempted to win a Division I district championship when they faced Newark on March 6. The Patriots entered the game with a 19-5 record after beating Worthington Kilbourne 51-49 in a district semifinal March 3.

With his team tied with Worthington Kilbourne with 2.9 seconds to go in a Division I district semifinal March 3, senior guard Cam Barcus hit a pair of free throws to lift the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team into a district final. 

It served as an example of the Patriots’ ability to close out games this winter, particularly during a six-game winning streak that they took into a district final March 6 at home against 13th-seeded Newark. 

Fifth-seeded Liberty, which won three other games during that stretch by seven points or fewer, took a 19-5 record into the district title game after beating the eighth-seeded Wolves 51-49. 

“The kids played well at the end and found a way to win,” coach Greg Nossaman said. “Credit to Kilbourne because they played really good defense and pressured the ball. We were down 10 with about five to six minutes to go in the third quarter, but then we went on a 15-0 run and took the lead. It was a good high school basketball game.” 

The Patriots, who opened the postseason with a 58-44 win over 36th-seeded Dublin Scioto on Feb. 26, got 14 points from Andrew Wade, 13 from Henry Hinkle and 11 from Cooper Davis against Kilbourne. 

The Liberty-Newark winner will play Gahanna or Reynoldsburg in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. March 11 at Ohio Dominican, with the winner to face Hilliard Bradley, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North or Westerville Central in a regional final at 2 p.m. March 13 at ODU. 

Also in district semifinals March 3, 14th-seeded Olentangy lost to sixth-seeded Pickerington Central 62-34 and 11th-seeded Orange lost to seventh-seeded Pickerington North 60-54. 

North made six of eight free throws during the final 1:03 against Orange, which got 15 points from Andre Irvin, 14 from Aidan King and 10 from Elias Lewis. 

The Pioneers finished 13-9. 

“I wanted to wear (North) down and get into their bench,” coach Anthony Calo said. “I thought we were very close to breaking them down. They were bending but they never broke. Give them credit for being tough.” 

Shooting woes hurt the Braves as Ethan Smith scored 10 points and Jack Huskey added nine.  

Olentangy trailed 22-14 at halftime but Central went on a 12-0 run to end the third quarter. 

The Braves finished 13-11. 

“We had a good game plan (and) a good idea of what we wanted to do, but we had to score,” coach John Feasel said. “We had to be in the 50s or 60s to have a chance to win this game, but we didn’t shoot well in the first half. (Central is) big and strong and they only had two points against us in the half-court in the first half. We just needed to score points.” 

•Despite not playing with its full roster for almost the entire season because of either injuries or COVID-19 quarantines, the Olentangy girls basketball team went 12-9 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division and reached its first Division I district semifinal since 2016.

Senior guard Kennedie Doup averaged 9.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists and senior guard Meg Spohn averaged 7.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists to pace the Braves, who were in contention for the league title until a five-game losing streak in early February. Seeded 12th for the postseason, Olentangy lost to visiting and 34th-seeded Logan 52-44 in a district semifinal Feb. 24.

“We saw the most development in late January and early February once we actually had most of the players in practice. This group played very well against some of the top-ranked teams and competed at a high level,” coach Kate Cummings said. “The senior class had a successful year of development with (forward) Dani Beidelman being the leading rebounder, Kennedie Doup not only breaking the single-game (3-pointers) record but also pulling defensive attention, which opened other opportunities for teammates.”

Doup made a program-record seven 3-pointers Jan. 19 in a 60-44 win at Orange. She was named second-team all-league and Spohn was first-team all-league.

Beidelman averaged 5.6 points and 6.3 rebounds.

Players eligible to return include sophomores Paige Pawlikowski (center), Reagan Richeson (forward, 7.2 points, 6.7 rebounds) and Jonna Spohn (guard, 6.4 points).

—Dave Purpura

•Losing five of its first six games didn’t derail the hopes of a winning season for the Liberty girls basketball team, which was seeded 14th for the Division I district tournament and had its season end with a 46-40 loss to 13th-seeded Bradley on Feb. 19 in the second round. 

The Patriots finished 13-11 overall and 7-3 in the OCC-Central, tying Bradley for second behind Dublin Coffman (10-0). 

“I’m really proud of this group,” first-year coach Tom Waterwash said. “We were 1-5 and went into a quarantine. That was a really tough stretch. We played in a lot of close games. The kids stuck together, kept working and turned it into an overall solid season for us. It could have gotten away from them.” 

Senior guard Caitlin Splain emerged as the team’s top offensive threat, averaging 13.5 points. She made a state-record 14 3-pointers and scored 45 points in a 69-43 win over Orange on Jan. 15. 

While Splain was first-team all-league, junior forward Jordan Rich (11 points) and freshman guard Gigi Bower (10 points) both were second-team all-league. Junior forward Taylor Redman averaged 6.5 points and was honorable mention all-league. 

Junior Ellie VanEnglenhoven (guard), sophomores Ryan Chapman (guard), Addison Marston (forward), Claire Mrukowski and Meredith Mrukowski (guard) and freshmen Emma Karagheuzoff (guard) and Sarah Mitchell (guard) are others eligible to return. 

“We played a lot of young kids throughout the year,” Waterwash said. “It was that kind of year where we were building. Our seniors did a great job leading a great group of kids.” 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

Junior guard Ellie Beck is one of the top players expected to return for Orange. Despite a 3-18 finish, coach Brian Cromwell said the Pioneers "established some standard and expectations, and the players bought into what we wanted to do."

•Coach Brian Cromwell wasn’t happy with the win total but was pleased with the progress made in his first season leading the Orange girls basketball team.

The 39th-seeded Pioneers lost at top-seeded Newark 62-13 on Feb. 19 in the second round of Division I district tournament to finish 3-18 overall. They tied Upper Arlington for fifth (1-8) in the OCC-Central.

“I think our season went well other than not winning more,” Cromwell said. “We established some standard and expectations, and the players bought into what we wanted to do.

“This is their third coaching staff in as many years. The season was a success in what we needed to do as a program and we can build on that moving forward.”

Junior guard Ellie Beck, sophomore guards Emma Delmore (honorable mention all-league) and Kayla Delmore (second-team all-league) and freshman forward Mairin O’Brien are key performers expected to return.

“We have an exciting group coming back, and they already are putting work in on their own,” Cromwell said. “We’re starting to turn the corner, and the girls are learning how to compete.”

—Scott Hennen

•The Berlin girls basketball team took a step back this season.

The 32nd-seeded Bears finished 6-17 overall, losing to 34th-seeded Logan 45-42 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 20 at home. Last season, they were 11-13.

Berlin, which tied Thomas Worthington for fifth (3-7) in the OCC-Cardinal, suffered an offseason blow when junior forward Deanara Mbouge was lost to a knee injury.

The Bears were led by senior guard/forwards Maddie Goodman (first-team all-league) and Courtney Suchan (second-team all-league) and senior guard Jenna Boucher.

Along with Mbouge, key players expected to return are sophomore forward Abbie Bell (honorable mention all-league), sophomore guard Ella Bishop and freshman guard Mia Raines.

—Scott Hennen

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BERLIN GIRLS BASKETBALL

Record: 6-17 overall

OCC-Cardinal standings: Marysville (8-2), Olentangy (6-4), Hilliard Darby and Dublin Jerome (both 5-5), Berlin and Thomas Worthington (3-7)

Seniors lost: Jenna Boucher, Maddie Goodman and Courtney Suchan

Key returnees: Abbie Bell, Ella Bishop, Deanara Mbouge and Mia Raines

Postseason: Lost to Logan 45-42 in second round of Division I district tournament

OLENTANGY GIRLS BASKETBALL

Record: 12-9 overall

Seniors lost: Dani Beidelman, Kennedie Doup, Ellen Kinnaird and Meg Spohn

Key returnees: Paige Pawlikowski, Reagan Richeson and Jonna Spohn

Postseason: Defeated Big Walnut 50-35; lost to Logan 52-44 in Division I district semifinal

LIBERTY GIRLS BASKETBALL  

Record: 13-11 overall  

OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (10-0), Liberty and Hilliard Bradley (both 7-3), Hilliard Davidson (3-7), Orange and Upper Arlington (1-8)

Seniors lost: Sarah Balliett, Charlotte Hummell, Sadie Lucas and Caitlin Splain 

Key returnees: Gigi Bower, Emma Karagheuzoff, Addison Marston, Claire Mrukowski, Taylor Redman and Jordan Rich 

Postseason: Def. Pickerington North 57-42; lost to Bradley 46-40 in second round of Division I district tournament 

ORANGE GIRLS BASKETBALL

Record: 3-18 overall

Seniors lost: Reese Miller, Hailey Schwade and Brooke Thompson

Key returnees: Ellie Beck, Emma Delmore and Kayla Delmore and Mairin O’Brien

Postseason: Lost to Newark 62-13 in second round of Division I district tournament