POWELL – One motivation took precedence for Olentangy Liberty senior Ben Roderick. It’s his senior season and there are a lot of lasts ahead of him.
One of those lasts – playing rival Olentangy Orange on his home court – came Friday night.
“This is our last home game against Orange and we just wanted to come out on fire,” Roderick said. “Our student section – they were loud and they were awesome – and we fed off that.”
He responded with a game-high 37 points, nine rebounds and three assists to lead the Patriots to an 81-66 win in the OCC-Buckeye opener for both teams.
Roderick scored eight points to lead the Patriots in a decisive 18-5 run to end the third quarter.
Liberty coach Greg Nossaman understands this idea of lasts.
“We’ve only played two games and it’s a long season,” he said. “Just show up every day and practice and keep working hard and try to enjoy the moment. We’re talking about playing in the moment and not worrying about the next game. Focus on what the task is at hand.”
Henry Hinkle pitched in 15 points, Nick Nakasian added 12 points and nine boards and Mitchell Kershner chipped in 12 points and seven boards to lead the Patriots (1-1, 1-0).
“Nick and Kersh got into foul trouble early, but once they got back in the second half – we got things rolling,” Roderick said. “We were moving the ball and getting out in transition and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Nik Brannon beat the halftime buzzer with a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game 30-30 at the break.
Orange opened the second half 7-0 when Ryan Cutler scored off his own steal, Brannon scored underneath and Lane buried a three-pointer.
“The three at the end was a nice momentum-booster,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “We did a good job of executing (our gameplan) coming out into the third quarter. We had good energy, got out in transition and hit some shots.”
Bryson Lane had 22 points, Darius Butler added 12 points and five rebounds and Luke Ballinger chipped in 10 points, five boards and three assists to lead the Pioneers (2-1, 0-1).
“This is the type of team that has to hit shots if we’re going to win,” Calo said. “We just didn’t protect the lead real well after that. We just have to be a little more selective in the ensuing possessions.”
Roderick led Liberty’s effort in the fourth quarter too, scoring 14 points in the frame, including a perfect 6-for-6 at the foul line to salt it away.
Orange is right back at it tonight when it hosts Walnut Ridge in non-league play. Liberty is off until Friday night when it continues league play with a trip to Westerville South. Both are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tip-offs.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]