The Olentangy Liberty boys basketball team led the entire game against visiting Hilliard Davidson, until a Jayden Nervis layup at the buzzer gifted the Wildcats a 50-48 win Friday night in Powell.
The Patriots (12-9, 6-3) would have clinched a share of the OCC-Central with a victory. Up by three with less than 20 seconds left, they had the conference crown in their grasp, until they didn’t. The Wildcats (14-6, 6-3) scored the last five points of the game as their fans stormed the court shortly after Nervis’ layup went through the net.
The Patriots were up 46-44 with under a minute left and Cooper Davis decided to drive to the hoop. A foul was called and he hit both shots from the charity stripe to put his team up four. It looked like Liberty had the game in the bag at that point, but Davidson kept inching closer and got within one possession with 20 seconds left. On the Patriots’ next possession, they overthrew a full-court inbounds pass, giving the Wildcats the ball down three with a chance to tie it.
Davidson’s Daniel Neidert answered with a quick corner three, but the Patriots still had time to win the game. Instead, they ended up turning the ball over.
Davidson received the ball under the hoop with 1.2 seconds and got the ball to Nervis, their best player, and he gathered it slowly, then hit the layup as time expired to give the Wildcats the victory. Nervis came off the bench and wasn’t his usual self for the majority of the game, but good players show up when their team needs it the most –– and that’s exactly what he did.
“We have had 21 games and 18 of them have been just like this, exactly,” Liberty coach Greg Nossaman said. “We’ve won more than we lost, though. We should not have turned the ball over, we should not have thrown that. Just very poor time management down the stretch.”
Things couldn’t have started off any better for Liberty. Seniors Trey Majizadeh and Davis both had five points early in the first quarter. Liberty opened with a 12-2 run, then Davidson guard Ryan Paris hit a three-pointer to stop the bleeding. The Wildcats closed the quarter on a 7-0 run, making it a 12-9 game after one.
Davidson finally tied the game up for the first time with a three to start the second quarter. Liberty was able to expand its lead to five at one point in the quarter, but wasn’t able to balloon it further. The Wildcats kept fighting and only went into the locker room at the half down by two, 22-20.
The third quarter was a defensive slugfest. Points were hard to come by as the Patriots outscored the Wildcats 8-6 and led 30-26 after three tough quarters of play.
Liberty switched to a 2-3 zone defense in the second half and it was working, until the final minutes of the game.
“I thought we could have got more stops,” Nossaman said. “They were a handful inside today.”
Majizadeh and Cooper both finished with 14 points. Nervis added 10 points and five rebounds. Davidson’s Peyton Frey had a game-high 15 points and six rebounds.
Liberty’s final game of the regular season will be against Olentangy Orange on Feb. 18. A win against the rival Pioneers will grant them a share of the league title.