It’s the most famous Latin phrase: Carpe diem. Seize the day. And it’s written on the wall of the Olentangy Liberty boys basketball locker room.
Ethan Novy took that to heart with a pair of assists and a steal in a 6-0 run that sparked a 17-point comeback victory for the Patriots.
Liberty held visiting Orange to 14 points in the second half on its way to a 54-44 victory to open OCC-Buckeye Division action Friday night in Powell.
“I didn’t see any panic on them or anything,” Patriots coach Greg Nossaman said. “This is a special group of kids.”
Novy found Mitchell Kershner for three and stepped in front of Alex Eha’s inbound pass before feeding Nick Nakasian in the left corner for another. Liberty turned a 31-14 deficit to 31-20 at the break.
“We were down big, so I was just feeling (like) anything that I could do to try and jump-start (the team),” Novy said. “It was big momentum that we didn’t have. It helped a lot.”
Jack Neer sparked the Pioneers (1-1, 0-1) early with eight points and Matt McCollum came off the bench and scored five in the first half, including a deep three that pushed Orange’s lead to 17.
“We played a pretty good first half, which was fun – it showed who we could be,” Pioneers coach Anthony Calo said. “We obviously have some things to clean up as we learned in the second half.”
McCollum, who’s been battling a knee injury, finished with a team-high 11 points and three assists for Orange, and tied for the team lead with four rebounds.
“McCullum is a pleasant surprise … because he hasn’t been real healthy,” Calo said. “I’m really happy for him because I know it’s been a real struggle for him with his body. I’m very happy for him.”
Neer had 10 points and four rebounds and Zack Stablein added nine points for the Pioneers. Manny Anderson also finished with four boards.
“It’s a young team and hopefully this is a great learning experience for us,” Calo said.
Liberty’s defense held the Pioneers to 5-for-17 shooting from the field and 0-for-6 from long range in the second half.
Sophomore Llwyatt Hofer seized the day for Liberty, too. He scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his first varsity start. The Patriots held a decisive advantage on the boards, outrebounding Orange 38-20.
“He’s got good timing and good feet,” Nossaman said.
Ben Roderick led the Patriots (3-0, 1-0) with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Novy finished with 12 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals.
“We got good guard play and we handled the ball well,” Nossaman said. “We’re not extremely quick, but we move the ball when we needed to … we had a couple of sets for Ben and got him going, but he (struggled) from the line.”
Jack Barnett added eight points, including a perfect 6-for-6 at the line, which helped Liberty improve on an otherwise difficult night from the charity stripe.
Next up, Orange travels to Hilliard Darby in non-league action Tuesday night and Liberty continues league play with a visit to Westerville South Friday night. Both are scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.