LEWIS CENTER – Line up the Olentangy and Olentangy Orange boys basketball teams in plain uniforms and one might not be able to tell the difference.
Both are sized similarly and both stroke the three-ball like it’s a rule rather than an option.
The only difference Friday night was a Ryan Cutler free throw with 3.1 seconds left to send Olentangy Orange to a 66-65 win at Olentangy in OCC-Buckeye play.
“Ryan’s kind of a cool customer,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “He’s just steady – he’s Ryan. Nothing really phases him. I yell at him and he stays the course. If he misses five shots in a row – he stays the course. He makes five in a row – he stays the course. He’s a pretty cool kid.”
The even-keeled Cutler was the perfect guy for the Pioneers to have at the line in that situation. The highs are never too high and the lows are never too low.
He missed the second free throw after an Olentangy timeout.
Olentangy had just 1.4 seconds to go 94 feet and 80 of those feet were covered on a Caleb Steele heave that just missed – hitting off the right rim at the buzzer.
“Every time it just seems to go down (to the end),” Cutler said. “They’ve won it in the past and this time they just didn’t. I don’t know – I thought (Steele’s shot) was going in – it was close.”
“It was in,” Calo said. “I was going to check that ball for a microchip. They had a buzzer-beater in the freshman game and a buzzer-beater in the J.V. game. It was 80-feet and I thought it was in.”
“We were just trying to get something toward the basket,” Olentangy coach John Feasel said.
Feasel wondered whether or not he should have had his team foul with more time on the clock.
“I go back-and-forth – I almost fouled with 30 seconds left just to get the ball back,” he said. “Then again, if we play good defense. But they made a call. I almost would rather have it with 30 seconds left down one or two.”
It was as it should be. These two teams are about as even as two teams can be. So, like the two games these teams played last year – it came down to the final seconds.
Alex Sieve hit a three to give Olentangy a win in overtime at Orange this time last year. It came after Sean Marks banked one in from the right wing at the end of regulation – both at the buzzer.
Orange tried to return the favor at Olentangy in the return game. Bryson Lane hit a shot with seven seconds left to send it to overtime and Luke Ballinger hit a three with a hand in his face with nine seconds left to send it to the second overtime. But Olentangy held Orange off in double overtime.
Nik Brannon and Luke Ballinger had 14 points apiece to lead the Pioneers (7-3, 3-1). Brannon had nine rebounds and Ballinger finished with eight.
Cutler added 12 points and six rebounds and Lane chipped in 11 points and five assists to back Orange.
“You’ve got two well-coached teams that both can shoot the ball,” Calo said. “It’s fun for the fans every time – I don’t know how much fun it is for the coaches. For the coaching staffs – it’s either elation or devastation.”
Marks had 18 points and seven assists and Luke Riedel added 14 points, including eight points and an assist to lead a 10-0 run that gave Olentangy the lead in the second quarter on its way to a 31-27 advantage at the break.
Noah Gossett added 11 points and seven rebounds for Olentangy (4-4, 2-2).
“They did exactly what I asked of them – we just came up on the short end,” Feasel said. “That’s gonna happen.”
Next up, both teams play non-league competition Tuesday night. Orange travels to Hilliard Davidson and Olentangy visits Upper Arlington. Both are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.