POWELL – Senior Joey Thatcher knocked down three 3-pointers to lead a 29-12 first-quarter onslaught and the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team cruised to a 68-45 win over Newark in non-league play Tuesday night.
The Patriots, who trailed 4-3 early, knocked down six 3s in the first quarter alone and finished with 13 for the game by seven different players.
“We’ve got some pretty good length,” Liberty coach Greg Nossaman said. “We move the ball well and we find the open guy. Joey had four 3s tonight and Henry (Hinkle) can do the same thing. Kal (Jayaraman) hit a (couple), Jack (Metzger) hit a 3 … we’ve got eight guys that can shoot the 3.”
Thatcher has been doing it all season. His four pushes him to 34 for the season. He was leading the area at 54.5 percent coming into Tuesday’s game.
“(I’m) just catching it and shooting it,” he said. “That’s what coach tells me to do and my teammates do a great job of finding me.”
He said he benefits from having defenses focus their attention on Ben Roderick.
“The skip is always there on the help-side in the paint thinking Ben is going to drive,” Thatcher said. “It opens it up and he looks for me.”
Roderick, meanwhile, had his lowest scoring output of the season with a team-high 15 points. But he added five rebounds, four assists and four steals to his stat line to help Liberty to its fifth straight win.
“This was one of the games where I didn’t have to score as much,” Roderick said. “I was helping my guys assisting and it felt great watching them score the ball. It was an awesome feeling.”
Nick Nakasian had 12 points and Mitchell Kershner added 10 and six rebounds for the Patriots (15-4) in his return to the starting lineup.
“I told them we’re going to go as far as we can depending on the team,” Nossaman said. “I think we can beat anybody in the district, but I think we can lose to anybody if we don’t play well.”
Kershner scored seven points Friday night at Westerville North in his first game back since Dec. 21 (toe). His injury was thought to have been season-ending.
“With Kersh back – it’s another shooter, another back-cutter,” Nossaman said.
Keshawn Heard scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the second half and finished with four rebounds to lead the Wildcats (15-4).
“We knew they could shoot,” Newark coach Jeff Quackenbush said. “We struggled to respond when they made a few shots and we also struggled to rebound when we got them to miss early in the game and I thought that was the difference.”
Kade Bafford added 11 points, including seven in the first half for Newark.
“This is one that you’re going to want to look at because if you want to win a district title or win the league, you’re going to have to beat teams as good as Olentangy Liberty,” Quackenbush said.
Next up, Liberty can clinch at least a share of the OCC-Buckeye championship with a win over Westerville Central Friday night in Powell. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]