WORTHINGTON – The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team withstood a couple of charges by Dublin Jerome and held on for a 51-46 victory to open the Stephen Gussler Invitational Friday afternoon at Thomas Worthington.
Jason Foster had 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks to lead Orange, which used an 8-0 run in the second quarter to take the lead for good.
“I never really think about my individual game,” Foster said. “I just think about what I can do to help the team get the win. I was just showing up and doing what I had to do for the team.”
“Jason’s a very talented, very athletic kid and he’s got a super-high ceiling as a basketball player,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “He’s definitely getting better and he’s getting more consistent. He’s doing better in practice and it’s carrying over into games.”
Dan Lee kept the Celtics in the game on both sides of the floor. The guard scored a game-high 24 points and added five steals and three assists to lead Jerome.
Lee had three steals and Ryan Nutter added a fourth to jump-start a 9-2 run that bridged the first and second quarters.
“There’s not a single player that I would take over him,” Jerome coach Richie Beard said. “He’s a kid that I’d go to war with … he’s a foxhole guy. He’s in the gym at 7:30 in the morning getting up shots. He does it all.”
Jayden Sun knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer to pull Jerome within 13-12 at the end of the first and Lee opened the second with a steal and a layup for a 14-13 lead with 7:22 left in the second quarter.
It was Jerome’s only lead, though. Jordan Bethel followed with a steal and a layup of his own to give the Pioneers (5-2) the lead again.
Foster followed with a basket off a Ryan Cutler steal and Bethel scored on the next possession before Foster knocked down a pair of free throws to cap the rally.
Elias Lewis scored on consecutive possessions, including a put-back, and Foster followed with a put-back of his own as Orange pushed the lead to 44-35 with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Then, Lee took over for the Celtics with seven straight points to help them pull within 47-46 with 2:23 remaining.
“It’s just energy,” Beard said. “When we decided to play hard – we got stops. We knew that once we got stops – we would be able to get back into the game. We felt comfortable on the offensive end. If we played with that intensity for four quarters, the outcome is probably very different.”
The teams traded steals and Foster knocked down a couple of free throws. But it was a Bethel steal and layup that finally put the Celtics away.
“We got a little too sped up,” Calo said. “Give (Jerome) credit … they sped us up and we didn’t handle it the way that we want to.”
Foster scored on layups on consecutive possessions to give the Pioneers an early 4-0 lead and Andre Irvin and Cutler each buried threes to push the lead to 11-5 with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
Irvin knocked down a pair of three-pointers and scored eight of his 11 points for Orange in the third quarter.
Cutler had eight points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks; Bethel also scored eight points and had four rebounds and three steals; Joel Addo led with five steals and had four rebounds and three assists; and Lewis added seven points for the Pioneers.
“If we can have five guys playing hard consistently and five guys rebounding to finish possessions consistently – we’d have a fantastic season,” Calo said. “We just gotta be more consistent.”
Matt Butler had nine points; Nutter had eight points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals; and Derek Sander had six rebounds for the Celtics (5-4).
Next up, Orange will play Licking Heights in the Stephen Gussler Invitational today at 2 p.m. at Thomas.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.