Olentangy Liberty junior Ben Roderick scored a game-high 27 points in Wednesday’s 73-66 OCC win over host Olentangy — the first eight of which made him the first 1,000-point scorer in boys basketball in school history.
“It feels amazing,” Roderick said about the feat. “It’s such a blessing that I’m the first ever. All glory to my teammates as well because they trust me in practice. They know that they can go to me every day. I know that I can trust them … they’re my best friends, too. It just helps when you have teammates like that.”
But, his night came to an abrupt end when he slipped on a wet spot and injured his knee with 3:26 left in the game.
“I’m feeling okay right now, but I’m going to the doctor tomorrow,” Roderick said. “I just felt like a crack in my knee.”
Liberty held a four-point lead at the time. The Patriots hit 12 of 15 free throws down the stretch to hold off the Braves and keep their slim hopes alive for an OCC-Buckeye title.
“He was just driving to the middle and his legs got tangled up and he just kind of slipped out,” Patriots coach Greg Nossaman said. “He’s crushed over it. He’s probably more scared than anything.”
Olentangy came back from a 16-point deficit in the first half — trailing 43-29 at the break — using a 13-2 run in the second half to get as close as one. Sean Marks scored eight points during the rally to lead the way.
“We just didn’t get over that hump,” Olentangy coach John Feasel said. “There are no moral victories … but, we played our butts off. An 8-7 team doesn’t have to play hard down 14 at the half. They could have just packed it in. But, they didn’t and I’m proud of them.”
“We’re just not very good at making decisions with the basketball right now,” Nossaman said. “But, they got it to one and our kids hung tough and made some free throws and got some stops. That’s a character-builder right there.”
Roderick scored underneath to end the rally and hit a pair of key three-pointers to push the lead to two possessions in the fourth quarter before leaving the game.
Nick Nakasian knocked down seven of his eight free throw attempts in the final minutes to finish with 17 points and help Liberty put the game out of reach.
“I think we just had to trust each other,” he said. “We just had to knock down free throws and take care of the ball and we’d come out with the win … hope for the best with Ben after.”
Mitchell Kershner hit two of Liberty’s seven first half three-pointers in the opening quarter, including one that tied the game 11-11.
“When we’re moving the ball, we can do great things,” Nakasian said. “That’s what we have to keep doing because it’s working. We have great chemistry and when we’re moving the ball like that it’s going to help us put up big numbers.”
Kershner finished with 10 points and Dan McFarland added nine for the Patriots (10-7, 4-3), who have won five out of their last six games.
Roderick knocked down a pair of free throws to give Liberty the lead for good at the 4:34 mark of the opening frame.
He hit threes on back-to-back possessions of the second quarter, including the one that gave him his 1,000th point at the 6:12 mark to give Liberty a 26-13 lead – its largest of the game.
“It’s tough to get that. You have to start at a young age and play as a freshman on varsity,” Nossaman said. “It was nice to get it out of the way in the first (half).”
Marks led Olentangy (8-8, 1-6) with 20 points, Alex Sieve added 14 and Jerred Kinnaird chipped in 11.
Both teams continue league play Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Olentangy hosts Westerville Central while Liberty welcomes Westerville North.
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