SUNBURY – The word Olentangy Orange coach Anthony Calo kept using after his Pioneers’ decisive 62-42 non-league win at Big Walnut Tuesday night was conviction.
“We are absolutely fighting to get this to look a certain way and that’s team basketball … ‘we over me basketball,’” Calo said. “We call that ‘Orange tough’ – which is essentially positive emotional responses. We are very convicted about that right now.”
Andre Irvin made the right reads on a few of his step-back three-pointers to help the Pioneers build an early lead.
“They were going under ball screens,” Calo said. “They were sagging and protecting and he stopped short three times – which he should because he’s a shooter. So, he made the proper basketball move and knocked down three open threes and that’s what we want.”
He knocked down five three-pointers and scored 17 points – all in the first half — as Orange took a 29-19 lead into the locker room.
And when BW adjusted by going over screens to take Irvin’s shot away in the second half, Ryan Cutler scored 10 of the team’s 12 third-quarter points to maintain the double-digit lead.
Cutler finished with a game-high 21 points and added five rebounds and Irvin had four rebounds and three assists for the Pioneers (2-1), who were coming off a disappointing loss to rival Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 6.
Then, Jason Foster took over and scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter with the key play coming on a dunk off an Irvin assist to push Orange’s lead to 45-33. Foster added seven rebounds and a couple of assists as well.
“They took (Irvin) away in the second half,” Calo said. “What that did for us is it allowed everyone else to benefit. They were playing him tight and it opened up lanes for us to attack … we had more space to attack. They paid (Irvin) a lot of respect, but it allowed other players to do their thing.”
“Give (Orange) credit – they came out and played really well,” BW coach Brett Bartlett said. “They sit down and guard you and they’re really physical on the ball.”
The Eagles looked like they were going to climb back into it at a couple of points. Jared Kreager scored twice sandwiched around a couple of Jacob Krous free throws to pull BW within 24-19 with 2:28 left in the first half.
But Joel Addo responded with a basket and Irvin buried a three after a Sam Rankin steal that gave Orange its cushion at the break. Addo led the Pioneers with eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
Jordan Bethel opened the second half with a basket and Cutler converted a three-point play to push the run to 10-0.
Kegan Hienton scored on back-to-back possessions, turning the second one into a three-point play to cut BW’s deficit to 41-33 with 7:36 left in the game.
But John Stearns scored on the next possession and Addo rebounded a missed shot, which led to Foster’s big dunk and Orange rolled from there.
“I thought we needed to play a little stronger … a little tougher,” Bartlett said. “We had to do some things different defensively – which we weren’t used to doing in the second half. Irvin shot lights out in the first half, but then they had other guys step up in the second half.”
Hienton finished with 15 points and three rebounds; Kreager added 14 points and six boards and Carter Conrad had eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a couple of blocks to lead the Eagles (3-1), who were without one of their top scorers in Jagger Barnett, who was home with an illness.
“Not having Barnett hurts a little bit,” Bartlett said. “That’s 12 points a game for us and that makes them that much harder to score against.”
Next up, both teams return to league action Friday night. BW travels to New Albany in OCC-Capital play and Orange visits Westerville Central in OCC-Buckeye action. Both games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]