The Olentangy Orange boys basketball team shot the leather off the ball in its 65-55 win over visiting Olentangy Liberty Friday night in Lewis Center, preventing the rival Patriots from clinching a share of the OCC-Central crown in the process.
The Pioneers (14-7, 4-6) put on a show for senior night, putting together their best offensive performance of the season on the biggest stage. Even with leading scorer Mikey McCollum missing his second straight game due to injury, Orange didn’t miss a beat as a 24-10 first-half run brought on by a barrage of threes was more than enough to give them a comfortable lead to play with.
Both teams came out on fire to start the first quarter. Five of the game’s first six field goals were three-pointers, two of them coming from Liberty’s leading scorer, Cooper Davis. Orange played with an intensity in the quarter that they have not played with all year, though, and kept pouring it on all night. The Pioneers led 17-12 after one.
The gym erupted after Orange senior guard Luke Johnson hit a corner three midway through the second quarter to make it a 27-17 game. He hit three threes in the half and finished it with 10 points. Orange went into the locker room leading 32-23.
“Luke Johnson is the best teammate ever,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “He is so hard-working. He doesn’t play the minutes he wants, but he doesn’t whine. To see him hit three threes was unreal for our coaching staff.”
There were two scoreless minutes by both teams to start the second half, then everything went Orange’s way in the third quarter. Senior forward Aidan King scored seven points in a row for the Pioneers and junior guard Elias Lewis capped off the run with an emphatic slam dunk on a fastbreak to expand the lead to 43-29. Orange was up 49-33 after three tone-setting quarters.
With a few minutes left in the game, Davis surpassed the 1,000-career points milestone. He started off the game with two threes, but the Pioneers did a good job of preventing him from even finding space to shoot the rest of the game.
Liberty ended up cutting the Orange lead to six with under two minutes left, then senior guard Jake Werling got a steal and dropped a dime to junior guard Jordan Edwards to effectively slam the door shut on any chance of a Patriot comeback.
Edwards led the Pioneers with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists while King finished with 12 points in the win. Davis led the Patriots with 17 points while Jackson Mikola had 14.
Orange and Liberty have now completed their regular seasons and both are set to play on Feb. 25 in the Division I district tournament’s sectional finals. If they both win their second-round matchups, they will play for a third time on March 2.