The Olentangy Berlin boys basketball team has gotten better at closing out games over the course of the last two seasons — the first two in the program’s history.
In Tuesday’s season opener, the Bears took another step in the right direction.
Austin Corley hit a key three-pointer to open the fourth quarter and Abel Abenet connected from deep a few minutes later as Berlin built a late cushion it parlayed into a thrilling 37-36 non-league win over visiting River Valley Tuesday night in Delaware.
The game was a close as the final score suggests … not just at the end, but all the way through. Neither team was able to build anything more than a one-possession lead until the fourth, when Corley’s triple on the first possession of the quarter gave the Bears (1-0) a 32-28 edge.
The Vikings’ Jahki Henderson answered with back-to-back buckets at the other end, evening things up at 32 with just over six minutes to play, but Berlin used a four-point trip to regain control. Aiden Loeffler started the sequence by calmly cashing in on the first of two free throws. He missed the second, but Derek Goodman was there for the rebound. Goodman, just a freshman, then kicked it out to Abenet, who drilled a three from the left wing to give the Bears a 36-32 lead with 5:01 to play.
After Jason Inbody split a pair at the line to balloon the Berlin advantage to five, 37-32, Ben Mayse hit a jumper to bring River Valley within three with 1:18 left.
Ethan Bell hit a pair of free throws on the Vikings’ next trip down the floor, tightening things a bit more, but that’s as close as they’d get.
After Berlin had trouble inbounding the ball, ultimately turning it over with 22.5 seconds left, Bell was fouled driving to the hoop with 11.2 seconds to play. He missed both, though.
The Vikings (1-2) got another crack at it after rebounding the second miss, but Bell’s deep three as time expired came up short as the Bears held on for the hard-fought win.
Corley finished with a team-high 12 points for Berlin while Goodman added nine and Inbody and Abenet chipped in six apiece.
Bell had 12 points for River Valley while Henderson added 11 in the setback.
Next up, Berlin is slated to host Mount Vernon in non-league action next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.