Patriots pick up statement win

By Michael Rich - For the Gazette

PICKERINGTON – Olentangy Liberty boys basketball coach Greg Nossaman treated Saturday afternoon’s game against Pickerington North like a tournament game.

Two of the area’s top teams matching up on a neutral site isn’t that far off.

The Patriots got the better of this dress rehearsal, getting 25 points from Ben Roderick and 23 from Nick Nakasian in a 75-64 win in the Jared Sullinger Play-by-Play Classic.

“It’s a neutral site and we wanted to treat it like a tournament game – the loser goes home,” Nossaman said. “The kids responded and you’re always good when you make shots and I thought we shot it pretty well on the perimeter.”

It’s the second year in a row the Patriots picked up a win at the showcase event, which was held at Ohio Dominican last year.

Roderick took advantage of the opportunity to show himself against a top area team after missing out on a chance to play at the Flyin’ to the Hoop Invitational because of last weekend’s snowstorm.

“My 3s were finally dropping,” he said. “Once they started coming out and denying me – I could get to the rim and start assisting my guys and they hit all of their shots.”

Roderick knocked down five of the team’s 11 3-pointers and finished with six rebounds, three assists and a couple of steals to add to his ledger – a far cry from the team’s 1-for-16 performance at Orange eight days prior.

“I think it just goes to show that when we’re clicking – we’re really hard to stop,” Nakasian said. “There’s going to be games like the Orange game where we’re not shooting the ball well. But we just have to find a way to work through those.”

Roderick scored all seven points of a 7-0 start for the Patriots, who never trailed.

Meanwhile, Nakasian showed no ill-effects of an achilles injury that forced him to miss Wednesday and Thursday practices.

He admitted to feeling pain in warm-ups and wasn’t sure how much of an impact he would be able to make after scoring 15 points in Friday night’s win over Westerville South.

“I was in a ton of pain in warm-ups,” he said. “As soon as I started playing, I felt fine.”

The senior pulled down seven rebounds, had four assists, a couple of steals and even a couple of dunks, including one off a Llywatt Hofer half-court lob – a play that staked Liberty to its biggest lead at 62-45 with 4:00 left in the fourth quarter.

His effort earned him one of the game’s Most Valuable Player awards.

Hofer finished with seven rebounds and six assists while Joey Thatcher added nine points, six boards and three assists for the Patriots (12-4), who have won two straight after dropping back-to-back games.

Jack Sawyer had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three assists to win the game’s other MVP award and Idris Lawrence added 18 points for the Panthers (12-4).

“I thought we did a great job on Sawyer,” Nossaman said. “We made him earn every point he got. He’s a handful.”

Next up, Liberty visits Westerville North in OCC-Buckeye play Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

By Michael Rich

For the Gazette

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]