They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters most.
For the Olentangy Orange boys basketball team, though, the start on Senior Night was the difference as the Pioneers jumped out early and hung on late to knock off visiting and OCC-champion Olentangy Liberty 56-50 Friday night in Lewis Center.
It was Senior Night, and the Pioneer (17-3, 7-3 OCC) seniors were ready to roll from the opening tip. Elias Lewis hit a three-pointer set up by a nice feed from fellow senior Jordan Edwards to break the scoring seal and, after Mikey McCollum and Nick Chapman hit back-to-back triples, Orange found itself in control with a 9-0 edge just a couple minutes into the action.
Liberty (19-3, 9-1 OCC) found its footing after that, outscoring Orange the rest of the way, but the early hole proved to be too deep to climb out of.
The Patriots’ James Hummell hit a jumper to stop the bleeding, and an Alex Okuley dunk quieted the crowd for a second, but Jacob Zingg scored inside at the other end to make it a 14-6 game with 3:36 left in the opening quarter.
Orange led 22-13 after a Devin Brown bucket at the 5:06 mark of the second. Liberty slowed things down after that, but couldn’t hit enough shots to get much closer before halftime. Brown scored again, this time in transition, to give the Pioneers a 28-15 lead at the break.
The edge swelled to 30-15 after Lewis scored the first points of the second half about two and half minutes into the third, and Orange led 37-23 with 2:52 left in the quarter thanks to a three-point play from Levi Davis.
Liberty stormed backed after that, as champions tend to do, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Matt Wilson scored back-to-back hoops to get the Patriots a little closer and Hummell banked in a three before hitting another from the corner to close the gap to 39-32 after three.
Liberty got as close as two in the fourth, with an opportunity to slice it to a single point with about a minute left, but missed two free throws. Lewis then went to the line at the other end and hit both to make it a 51-46 game.
An Okuley layin made it a one-possession game with 18 seconds left, but Lewis and McCollum combined to go 3-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final seconds to smooth out the scoring summary and hand the Patriots their first league loss of the season.
Lewis had a game-best 16 points while Edwards finished with 14 in the win. Hummell and Jackson Mikola led Liberty with 13 points apiece.
Delaware Hayes 52, Franklin Heights 33
The Pacers led by just two at the break, 21-19, but outscored the host Golden Falcons 31-14 in the second half to cruise to a league win in Friday’s regular-season finale.
Hayes’ Jesse Burris led all scorers with 16 points, including nine as part of a 17-8 third quarter his team used to take control.
Jake Lowman backed Burris with 10 points while Hezekiah Russell and Anthony Wilson finished with eight apiece.
Also: Marysville 55, Olentangy 54; Thomas Worthington 87, Olentangy Berlin 51.