Notebook: Olentangy Liberty Patriots boys basketball squad wins third district title

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Liberty's Ty Foster celebrates following the Patriots' 57-45 win over visiting Newark in a Division I district final March 6. It was the third district title in program history.

During the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team’s run to a Division I state semifinal in 2019, Henry Hinkle was a part-time starter who complemented the program’s all-time leading scorer, current Ohio University sophomore Ben Roderick. 

For players like Hinkle and fellow seniors Ty Foster and Andrew Wade, both of whom dressed varsity but didn’t see tournament action that season, this year’s run to the regional tournament brought back memories while having its own unique feel. 

Liberty lost to Gahanna 47-39 in a regional semifinal March 11 at Westerville South to finish 20-6.

“Doing it (in 2019 and) getting the district title gave me a lot of experience with all those guys and kind of gave the feeling of what it takes to do it and how happy you are,” Hinkle said. “We wanted to get back here and get the job done.” 

Liberty was seeded fifth for the district tournament and beat 13th-seeded Newark 57-45 on March 6 in a district final at home. 

The Wildcats beat Liberty 58-56 on Jan. 26 and made their first six shots in the rematch to build a 12-4 lead, but the Patriots closed the first quarter on a 13-4 run and led 26-25 at halftime.  

Wade scored 11 second-half points and finished with 17, and Hinkle and Foster both scored 11 as Liberty won its third district title. The first one came in 2011. 

“It feels amazing,” Foster said. “Coach (Greg Nossaman) definitely lights us up at halftime and it got us pumped. It put in perspective that this was going to be our last game on this court for the seniors, so that really gave us motivation in the third quarter and we came out strong.” 

•The Olentangy boys basketball team will graduate five of its top six scorers and its top four rebounders after going 13-10 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, and coach John Feasel handed his returning players expectations not long after the season ended in a Division I district semifinal.

“The seniors did a good job in the weight room and now the younger guys have to,” Feasel said. “To play in district finals and regional games, that’s the kind of team you’ll go up against, big, strong, athletic dudes and you have to be able to play with those guys.”

Senior guard Tavian James averaged 12.9 points to lead the Braves, ahead of junior guard Ethan Smith (9.9 points, 3.0 assists) and senior forward Zach Wieging (9.0 points). Senior forward Caleb Gossett and Wieging each averaged 4.8 rebounds.

James was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Wieging and Gossett were second-team and special mention all-league, respectively, and Wieging also was honorable mention all-district. Senior guard Luke Elmore was honorable mention all-league.

Other players eligible to return include sophomores Reid Apke (forward) and Jack Huskey (guard).

“Thirteen wins for us this year (and) being third in the league was solid,” Feasel said. “They fought and battled every game.”

—Dave Purpura

Junior forward Carson Jankowski is expected to be one of the top returnees for Berlin. He was second-team all-CHC this season after tallying 30 goals and eight assists.

•Coach Tim Pennington said the Berlin hockey program continued to make strides during its third season.

The Bears finished 18-8-1 overall and placed second (12-3-1) in the CHC-White behind Cincinnati Moeller (14-1-1).

“I think we took another step forward,” Pennington said. “Having a full roster and having a j.v. team moved us forward as a program.”

Forward Henderson Bishop (10 goals, 11 assists), goalie Alex Cunningham, forward Cole Mascari (6 goals, 5 assists) and defenseman Dan Neverov (2 goals, 4 assists) led an eight-player senior class.

“We had a great senior class,” Pennington said. “Cole was my Swiss army knife because he could do anything and Dan Neverov was our captain and played well on defense. Alex Cunningham did great in his time in goal and he had a hot hand down the stretch.”

Several juniors are expected return, including goalie Josh Chmielewski (second-team all-CHC), defenseman Luke DeChristopher (1 goal, 7 assists), forward Tyler Ebare (honorable mention all-CHC; 9 goals, 18 assists), forward Carson Jankowski (second-team all-CHC; 30 goals, 8 assists), forward Nick Piccioni (first-team all-CHC-White; 11 goals, 20 assists), forward Ryley Scanlon (10 goals, 8 assists) and forward Zack Zielinski (11 goals, 13 assists). Sophomore defenseman Zach Rogers (1 goal, 6 assists) also is expected back.

—Scott Hennen

•After losing two of its three regular-season meetings against Upper Arlington, the third-seeded Liberty hockey team fell short again when it met the second-seeded Golden Bears in a district semifinal Feb. 28 at OhioHealth Ice Haus. 

With the 3-2 overtime loss, the Patriots finished 16-12-2-3 overall. They placed third (10-3-1-1) in the CHC-Red behind St. Charles (12-2-1) and UA (11-3). 

Liberty also lost to UA 2-1 on Feb. 13 in a semifinal of the Blue Jackets Cup. 

“Our guys took a little too long to adjust but recovered nicely, and our team’s level of play by the end of the year improved,” coach Kevin Alexander said. “I’m proud of how our boys did with only 15 minutes in the rink to get ready and go right on the ice. They were almost too happy to just be playing during this pandemic and could have used a little more competitive drive.” 

The Patriots lose a 12-player senior class that was led by forward Jackson Vojin, who had 17 goals and 26 assists in his only season with the program, as well as forwards Max Lundquist (11 goals, 19 assists), Ben Brown (7 goals, 12 assists), Isaac Moe (8 goals, 8 assists), Andrew Minardi, Ben Pittroff and Kellan Reynolds and defensemen Eli Bowden, Cameron Gresham and Landon Smith. 

Junior forward Gage Schlotterbeck had 34 goals and 12 assists and was first-team all-CHC, and freshman forward Brian Savage had 32 goals and 13 assists. 

Junior goalie Benton Roberts went 5-3-1 behind senior Andy Keeler (11-9-1-3).

Other key returnees should include junior forward Shane Flanagan, sophomore forward Eric Bauermeister and sophomore defensemen Jacob Kempa and Carson Reynolds. 

“Next year has some question marks,” Alexander said. “We lose some great offensive players, a great No. 1 goalie and a great defenseman, but the good news is we have the best player in Ohio coming back as a senior in Gage Schlotterbeck and some great (junior varsity) players to help out.” 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

•The Orange hockey team had the scoring punch to compete with any opponent thanks to players such as senior forwards Clayton Headlee and Austin Knupp.

Knupp (second-team all-CHC) led the area in scoring with 38 goals and 43 assists for 81 points. Headlee (first-team all-CHC) had 31 goals and 45 assists and closed his career as the Pioneers’ assists leader with 99.

Forward Payton Muth (honorable mention all-CHC; 14 goals, 29 assists) and defenseman Ethan Muth (first-team all-CHC; 12 goals, 16 assists) also were standouts in the six-player senior class.

“It was a very rewarding season,” said first-year coach Brenton Blaskie, whose team finished 18-9-0-2 overall and fourth in the CHC-Red at 10-4-0-1. “We had a lot of challenges and the way everyone handled everything and the way the seniors stepped up to help the younger guys was pretty special to see. This was an amazing senior class, and they were the best group of leaders I have ever coached.”

Expected to return are junior forward Robbie Hauer (5 goals, 7 assists), junior defensemen Gabe Headlee (5 goals, 9 assists) and Grant Hendrickson (8 goals, 9 assists) and junior goalie Kyle Diehr (.915 save percentage).

“We had some success on the ice,” Blaskie said. “I have coached some of them for a few years and others for many years. I’m glad to see them succeed and take Orange hockey to the next level.”

—Scott Hennen

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OLENTANGY BOYS BASKETBALL

Record: 13-11 overall

OCC-Cardinal standings: Thomas Worthington (10-0), Marysville (7-3), Olentangy (6-4), Hilliard Darby (4-6), Dublin Jerome (3-7), Olentangy Berlin (0-10)

Seniors lost: Luke Elmore, Caleb Gossett, Jack Hennegan, Tavian James, Matt Kennedy and Zach Wieging

Key returnees: Reid Apke, Jack Huskey and Ethan Smith

Postseason: Defeated St. Charles 59-54; lost to Pickerington Central 62-34 in Division I district semifinal

BERLIN HOCKEY

Record: 18-8-1 overall

CHC-White standings: Cincinnati Moeller (29, 14-1-1), Berlin (25, 12-3-1), Thomas (19, 9-6-0-1), Cincinnati St. Xavier (17, 7-6-2-1), Dublin Coffman (16, 8-8), Springboro (10, 4-10-1-1)

Seniors lost: Henderson Bishop, Wes Bobo, Alex Cunningham, Drew Haver, Ethan Jaeckel, Cole Mascari, Walter Mauer and Dan Neverov

Key returnees: Josh Chmielewski, Luke DeChristopher, Tyler Ebare, Carson Jankowski, Nick Piccioni, Zach Rogers, Ryley Scanlon and Zack Zielinski

Postseason: Def. Coffman 2-1; lost to Upper Arlington 2-0 in district quarterfinal

LIBERTY HOCKEY 

Record: 16-12-2-3 

CHC-Red standings: St. Charles (25, 12-2-1), UA (24, 11-3), Liberty (22, 10-3-1-1), Orange (21, 10-4-0-1), Jerome (10, 4-10-1-1), New Albany (5, 1-9-2-1) 

Seniors lost: Eli Bowden, Ben Brown, Cameron Gresham, Ian Hood, Andy Keeler, Max Lundquist, Andrew Minardi, Isaac Moe, Noah Pittroff, Kellan Reynolds, Landon Smith and Jackson Vojin 

Key returnees: Eric Bauermeister, Shane Flanagan, Jacob Kempa, Carson Reynolds, Benton Roberts, Brian Savage and Gage Schlotterbeck 

Postseason: Def. Olentangy 8-2; def. Moeller 2-1; lost to UA 3-2 (OT) in district semifinal

ORANGE HOCKEY

Record: 18-9-0-2 overall

Seniors lost: Max Hart, Clayton Headlee, Austin Knupp, Ethan Muth, Payton Muth and Wes Newton

Key returnees: Kyle Diehr, Robbie Hauer, Gabe Headlee and Grant Hendrickson

Postseason: Def. St. Xavier 7-1; lost to Oxford Talawanda 6-4 in district quarterfinal