Olentangy Liberty junior Ben Roderick scored eight of his game-high 28 points during a 13-0 run to end the third quarter.
The Patriots (1-2, 1-1) were able to hold off Westerville South in the fourth quarter to win 61-58 in OCC-Buckeye boys basketball action Thursday night in Powell.
“You can’t stop. You have to keep going until there are zeros on the clock,” Liberty coach Greg Nossaman said. “It’s our first win — a league win — you don’t want to fall too far behind. It’s not do-or-die, but it’s a big game.”
The Wildcats trailed by as much as seven in the final minute.
Roderick rebounded and dunked a missed Nick Nakasian shot, but was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim with 1.3 seconds left in the game.
“I made a bad judgment by hanging on the rim,” Roderick said. “It almost cost us … I just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Joey Thatcher had 12 points. He hit five of six free throws in the fourth quarter to help keep Liberty afloat.
Manny Sunnyway, who led the Wildcats with 20 points, made both free throws on the technical. But, Jordan McMillian’s deep three-pointer missed wide right at the buzzer.
Liberty trailed by as much as five points in the third quarter. Mitchell Okuley missed a three and had the rebound tipped to him by teammate Grant Wilson. He found a lane and laid it in to cut the deficit to 38-35 with 3:33 left.
“I thought when we called timeout middle of third and changed up our defense — pressed a little bit and got some turnovers — we got it going a little bit,” Nossaman said. “So, that’s a good sign.”
Wilson scored on Liberty’s next possession and Okuley knocked down a free throw to tie it.
That’s when Roderick took over. He buried a three from the left wing to put Liberty on top and followed with an and-one before finishing off the third quarter with a basket from underneath to give the Patriots a 46-38 lead.
“I think the first two games, I thought I was rushing my shots a little more and not really finding my teammates,” Roderick said. “Today, I knew they were going to collapse and double me, so I tried to get my teammates more involved … which (made it easier on me) when they were running out on three-point shooters.”
Sunnyway beat the halftime buzzer to tie the score at 29-29 after a back-and-forth first half. It followed a Hafiz Turay basket to help South tie it after Liberty had its largest lead of the game to that point.
The Wildcats led by as much as four in the opening frame before a Roderick three-pointer made it 14-13 at the end of one.
McMillian had 16 points and Turay added 10 for the Wildcats (3-1, 1-1).
Next, Liberty hosts Marysville in non-league action Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.