After starting out 0-5, the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team sure is enjoying its mid-season turnaround.
The Patriots are happy to be back at .500 after beating Olentangy Orange 53-48 in Powell Friday night.
“I can remember when we were sitting here 0-5 back in the middle of December,” Olentangy Liberty head coach Greg Nossaman said. “We’ve now won six of our last seven. We have six seniors. We’re playing well and we’re just trying to keep it rolling.”
Liberty is now 6-6 with impressive wins over Hilliard Davidson, Westerville Central, Thomas Worthington and Hilliard Bradley. They are riding a four-game win streak and they know how important it is to peak at the right time.
The Patriots put together a solid opening quarter of play, leading 15-10 after one. It was pretty much all Liberty after Orange’s Elias Lewis hit a catch-and-shoot three to start the scoring. The Pioneers struggled to make shots early and for much of the game, which ultimately ended up being their downfall.
Liberty held Orange to only six points in the second quarter and went into the locker room leading 23-16. The Patriots’ defense caused a lot of problems for the Pioneers, making them work as hard as they could to even get a shot up.
Junior guards Mikey McCollum and Lewis were the only Pioneers who had much success creating their own shots in the first two quarters. Neither team even attempted a free throw in the first half.
“We give our guys a lot of freedom on offense and tonight we weren’t responsible with that freedom,” Olentangy Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “We are more than a two-man team. There’s a difference between what you can do and what you have to do.”
Early in the third quarter, it looked like the game might be slipping away for Liberty as McCollum hit a corner three to cut their lead to four.
From that point forward, though, it was the Cooper Davis show.
The 6-foot-4 senior guard scored eight points in the quarter and helped Liberty expand its lead. He had 17 points through three quarters. The Patriots led 38-27 through three, but the Pioneers weren’t done chipping away yet.
Orange kept on fighting and was able to make it a one-possession game multiple times in the fourth quarter, but Liberty held on to eke out the victory over its crosstown rival. The Pioneers’ comeback bid came up just short after McCollum missed a shot in the final seconds.
Lewis finished with 17 points and McCollum had 15. Davis had 23 and closed out the game with a pair of free throws. Liberty senior guard Trey Majizadeh added 20 points.
“Trey managed the game really well with his ball handling skills,” Nossaman said. “Cooper was feeling it. We started heating up and found a way to win.”
The Pioneers are now 6-5 and their two-game win streak has ended.
Next up, Orange is scheduled to play New Philadelphia today at Ohio Dominican at 3 p.m. Liberty will host St. Charles at 5 p.m.