DELAWARE – When asked what the biggest difference was between the Olentangy Berlin boys basketball team a year ago and the one today, coach Donovon Barrett pointed to Friday night’s 54-39 loss to Dublin Jerome in OCC-Cardinal play.
After all, it came a little more than a year after the Celtics handed the Bears their worst loss of their inaugural season, 100-60 on Jerome’s home floor.
“I can tell you our coaching staff is a little disappointed,” Barrett said. “Our players are a little disappointed because we really felt like we could win this game. So, that’s how much we’ve grown.”
The Bears are a little more experienced and Jerome is a little less.
“We graduated 12 seniors,” Jerome coach Taylor Harle said. “We have two guys that haven’t had any varsity experience. Our third leading scorer (Ryan Nutter) played middle school basketball last year. So, our guys are learning how to win and learning how to play hard for 32 minutes.”
This one came down to two things … free throws and layups.
“We’ve worked really hard (and) our skills have gotten better,” Barrett said. “But – like we talked about in (the locker room) – we gotta become better finishers. We’ve gotta make free throws and we’ve gotta make layups.”
Berlin made just 12 of 22 free throws and struggled to score in the paint.
Grant Schrieber buried a three-pointer to give the Bears a 20-17 lead with 48 seconds left in the first half and Jason Inbody went 1-for-2 at the line on the next possession to give Berlin a two-possession lead.
Dan Lee scored through contact on the other end and converted the free throw to tie the game 20-20 and CC Ezirim knocked down a free throw to give Jerome a 21-20 lead going into the locker room.
“Our defense was good,” Barrett said. “We want to be tough players and we’re doing part of that (by taking charges on defense). But we have to make free throws and layups.”
Matt Butler, Ryan Nutter and Lee each scored baskets on consecutive possessions to start the second half and Jerome never trailed again.
Lee scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half. He also had three assists and three steals for the Celtics (4-2, 1-2).
“Dan Lee is one of the best players in the conference,” Harle said. “He should have been first-team all-conference last year, but he missed it by a couple of votes. He’s showing everybody this year why he’s one of the top guards around.”
Butler added 16 points and four rebounds, Nutter had nine points and nine rebounds, David Adolph had seven rebounds and Derek Sanders had five assists for Jerome.
“(Butler) is a load down low,” Harle said. “He’s only a sophomore. He played JV basketball last year as a freshman, so this is his first varsity experience.”
Austin Corley had 14 points, Inbody and Aiden Loeffler had seven points apiece and Schrieber had six points for the Bears (0-4, 0-3), whose entire coaching staff was wearing Buckeye Valley shirts with Troy Scowden’s name and number on the back to honor the Buckeye Valley sophomore, who had suffered a fractured skull after falling in a game Dec. 6.
Barrett coached at BV for 14 seasons. Scowden was released from the hospital Thursday.
Inbody had eight rebounds, Loeffler had six and Kalvin Betz had three assists for Berlin.
Berlin is off until Dec. 20 when it continues league play with a trip to Hilliard Darby. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.