Pioneers fall to Wildcats in tough road opener


By Sean Blevins - For the Gazette



The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team had multiple chances to put the game away late in its opener, but wasn’t able to overcome a poor shooting night en route to a 47-44 loss to host Hilliard Davidson Friday night.

The Pioneers led by as much as seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats just kept chipping away until they took a last-minute lead and held on to move to 3-0 on the season.

“It’s tough because I thought we had the game won,” Olentangy Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “At the end of the game, we have to be tougher with the basketball. I thought we performed poorly offensively. We can’t let the crowd bother us like that.”

Both teams couldn’t really get going in the opening quarter. It was nearly four minutes into the game before there was a basket made by either team and then the intensity in the gym picked up like clockwork. The Wildcats ended up with a 12-10 lead after a sloppy first quarter of action before Orange junior guard Elias Lewis banked in three-pointer from just inside mid-court.

The Wildcats controlled the flow of the game for almost the entire first half until the final two minutes of the second quarter. It felt like the momentum in the arena changed when junior guard Mikey McCollum hit a catch-and-shoot three from the top of the key to give the Pioneers a two-point lead. Orange then stole the ensuing inbound pass and got a layup off of it, allowing the Pioneers to take a 22-18 lead into the locker room.

Calo said McCollum didn’t start practicing until midway through this week due to injury. Once McCollum gets fully healthy, he is expected to be the primary scorer and the offense will run through him most games.

The Wildcats put together a solid third quarter. They sped up the pace of play and hit three threes and found themselves trailing by just three points at the end of it.

It was an exciting, back-and-forth final quarter that featured several lead changes in the closing minutes. Orange missed several shots in the quarter that likely would have allowed it to pull away, and still led by seven with over six minutes to play.

The most crucial moment in the game happened when the Wildcats were down 44-43 late. Senior guard Jayden Nervis stepped up to the line with 39 seconds left and buried both shots from the charity stripe to put the Wildcats up one. Hilliard Davidson added two more free throws in the closing seconds to secure the three-point victory.

“I think our offense can be really good,” Calo said. “I just don’t think we did what we wanted to tonight. Our team defense was good. We just have to clean up some stuff. I think we are going to see some better games from our guys in the future.”

Next up, Orange will host Westerville Central on Tuesday.

https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2021/12/web1_delgazette.jpg

By Sean Blevins

For the Gazette