The Olentangy boys basketball team had the best three-point percentage in the state last season. The Braves shot it well from the free-throw line, too … and it led them to a 14-win season.
The shooting only got them so far, though.
They finished 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, last in the league. In the postseason, they poured in 77 points in the second round of the Division I district tournament … and lost by nine to Chillicothe.
Needless to say, head coach John Feasel said the defense has been a priority all offseason.
“Defensively, we have gotten a lot better,” he said. “I think we’re starting to learn that, with the shooters we have, defense can help us take that next step. We’ve made great strides … I have four coaches working tirelessly to get them to play defense.”
The Braves return a good amount of experience, and plenty of talent, led by seniors Sean Marks, Luke Riedel, Alex Sieve, Noah Gossett and Caleb Steele. Marks nabbed Special Mention All-Ohio honors last year.
“I really don’t expect much out of Sean … just 30 points, 10 assists and to make every free throw he shoots,” Feasel joked. “Really, though, Sean’s gonna do what it takes to win. We know what Sean’s going to bring every night: scoring, intensity and playmaking.”
Riedel is healthy after being banged up for a good part of last season.
“Luke has a different gear in athleticism than most of our guys,” Feasel said. “He can go a different speed and jump a different height than most of our guys … and he can really defend the ball. He didn’t practice much last year — we just tried to use him when we could and help him manage the pain — but this year he hasn’t missed a practice or scrimmage and is looking pretty good.”
Sieve returns after averaging a tick over 13 points per game last winter and Steele and Gossett are the most improved players on the team, Feasel said.
“Gossett has gained about 10 pounds and a lot of confidence and Steele has lost about 20 pounds and gained some quickness,” he said. “For a big guy, he’s done a good job shooting it and guarding it, which is what we need.”
Junior forward Austin Brown is also back, as is junior guard Jake Elmore.
“Austin started for us last year and is back doing what he does: rebounding, playing defense and getting to every loose ball,” Feasel said. “Elmore didn’t see a ton of time, but he played some minutes and has some experience as well.”
The Braves improved their record each of Feasel’s first two years at the helm, and expect to continue to trend in the right direction. Winning the OCC is another goal.
“Every year our goal is to win our division and go from there,” Feasel said. “It’s never been done here at Olentangy … it’s certainly something we’d like to do.”
In order to do that, the Braves will have to contend with some solid squads.
“Liberty is loaded … probably the favorite, and Westerville South and North might be the next two,” Feasel said. “Westerville Central has four move-ins, they’ll be good, and Orange is good.
“In our league there’s just no easy game. I mean, we were last place in the league last year and I think we battled everyone pretty well. No matter what, you’re either playing a rivalry game or someone that’s really good … and sometimes both. If you don’t battle you’re gonna get beat.”
Olentangy opens the season with a league showdown against host Westerville North Friday night at 7:30 p.m.