COLUMBUS — The deep back-drop at the Columbus Convention Center wasn’t a problem for Henry Hinkle and the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team.
Hinkle made big shot after big shot to help the Patriots to a 72-65 win over Hilliard Davidson in a Division I district final Saturday night.
Ben Roderick had 29 points and Hinkle and Nick Nakasian added 16 apiece to lead Liberty to its second district title and first since 2012.
“It’s a feeling I can’t explain,” Roderick said. “I’ve been with my guys since the fourth grade and this is something we’ve wanted all of our lives. Playing on this big stage and in this awesome arena – it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Rodrick added five rebounds, a couple of steals and a pair of assists and Nakasian led with six assists and added five rebounds. Mitchell Kershner had five rebounds and four assists to go with six points for the Patriots (22-4).
“We’ve got six seniors and I’m very happy for them because they’re the ones that are playing and they’re the ones that are getting it done,” Liberty coach Greg Nossaman said. “It’s very, very special for them.”
Hinkle knocked down a 3-pointer to break a 44-all tie with 2:54 left in the third quarter, giving the fourth-seeded Patriots the lead for good. The shot started a 13-4 run that carried into the final frame.
“I knew this gym would be different with the back-drop,” Hinkle said. “But I’ve played with (long back-drops) in AAU tournaments and I like it.”
He also drove for a layup to give Liberty a 60-55 lead with 3:36 left in the fourth after Davidson rallied to get within a possession.
Nakasian followed with a driving basket and fed Mitchell Kershner for a layup on the next possession and Liberty was off from there.
Nakasian hit a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a pair of Roderick free throws to highlight a 15-4 run that gave the Patriots the lead after falling behind by five.
The backdrop wasn’t much of a problem for the sixth-seeded Wildcats, who found the bottom of the net on 11 3-pointers.
Jacob Drees hit seven of them and scored a game-high 33 points and pulled down six rebounds to lead Davidson.
Christian Gillilan added 10 points, four rebounds and three assists and a pair of blocks for the Wildcats (20-6), who defeated Liberty 64-62 Jan. 22 in Hilliard.
Caleb Stimmel and Gage Keys tallied eight points apiece and Keys added five rebounds for Davidson.
The Patriots have run off 12 straight wins since then and have a chance to add on when they meet Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Ohio Dominican University’s Alumni Hall.
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