Why would Nevada have anything to do with the Olentangy Orange boys basketball team?
Because all Pioneer coach Anthony Calo could think about in the final minute of his team’s 59-55 victory Friday night at Olentangy was Nevada’s 14-point comeback in the final 89 seconds at New Mexico earlier this week.
The Pioneers had a comfortable 57-42 lead after Jalen Bethel scored six points during an 8-0 run to seemingly put the game out of reach.
But, Olentangy rallied and Orange faltered at the free throw line.
Jerred Kinnaird converted a three-point play, Sean Marks banked in a three-pointer and Jason Sieve converted three free throws and, all of a sudden, Olentangy had pulled to within two with 7.8 seconds left.
“It’s never over and that’s something we have to learn,” Calo said. “It was a phenomenal effort for 31 minutes – we really played our (butts) off. It’s an every-possession grind and you can’t take things for granted.”
Fortunately for Orange, Zack Stablein fed ahead to Alex Eha, who broke free of Olentangy’s press for a layup at the buzzer.
Manny Anderson had 16 points and nine rebounds while Bethel added 11 points and five rebounds. The duo combined for 10 of the Pioneers’ 18 offensive rebounds. The taller Orange squad outrebounded Olentangy 43-25.
“I think this game really helped us build our confidence,” Anderson said. “We knew we had a size-advantage, so instead of getting back, I really wanted to pursue the ball.”
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Pioneers (6-6, 1-3), giving them their first win in the OCC-Buckeye Division.
“I didn’t know how we would respond and our coaches really challenged them in practice – practice really wasn’t that fun in the last week,” Calo said. “But they did embrace it … they embraced how hard it was and I’m just so proud of the kids.”
Stablein had eight points and seven rebounds, Matt McCollum chipped in eight points and Eha led the Pioneers with five assists to go with seven points.
Olentangy missed its first nine shots as five different players scored in an 11-0 start for the Pioneers, who never trailed.
“I think (the score is) a lot closer than it really was,” Olentnagy coach John Feasel said. “We’re a jump-shooting team and when we’re not making shots, it’s tough-sledding. We battled and made it a game at the end and did what we could.”
Marks, who finished with five three-pointers, scored a game-high 21 points to lead Olentangy. He also finished with three rebounds and two steals.
Greg Hendrix had 12 points, Nathan Riedel added eight points and led Olentangy with six rebounds and three assists and Luke Riedel led with four steals.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.