Olentangy Liberty boys basketball coach Greg Nossaman pointed out after Saturday’s 62-54 win over eighth-ranked Dublin Coffman in the Jared Sullinger Play-By-Play Classic at Ohio Dominican University’s Alumni Hall that any Central Ohio team can beat anyone.
“I think we can beat anybody in Central Ohio,” he said.
Liberty, coming off a 51-50 loss to Westerville South in OCC-Buckeye action, dispatched Dublin Coffman in fairly convincing fashion thanks to a 30-point effort by Ben Roderick.
“I feel really good for the kids,” Nossaman said. “Because they were really bummed after last night because we were one game out of first place (in the OCC-Buckeye) and now we’re two games out of first with four games to go.”
The Patriots (9-7) used an 8-0 run to close out the opening quarter and a 10-0 run to close out the half to take firm control.
“There’s not a better feeling than when we play like we did out there,” junior Nick Nakasian said. “We’ve had an up-and-down season and that’s not something we expected. We’ve just gotta work through it and figure out how we can play like that as much as possible.”
Coffman, a top team in the area to be sure, fell to Olentangy Orange earlier this week. Westerville South, which beat Liberty in the final seconds Friday night, turned around and lost to Thomas Worthington Saturday.
“It was good to have a game (Saturday),” Nossaman said. “Because after last night … it was a really bad taste in our mouth and our kids bounced back against a good team.”
Dublin Scioto, which lost Friday night at Delaware – came through with a big win over Westerville Central Saturday.
And Westerville Central handed Liberty its worst loss of the season (66-53 Jan. 2) – it’s only double-digit loss.
Anyone can beat anyone.
“I think Pickerington North is the cream of the crop right now,” Nossman said. “After that, it’s anybody’s ballgame.”
So, while Liberty’s record may look less than stellar, Saturday’s win over Coffman showed the best of what the Patriots are. They held Coffman to just 14 points in the first half.
Dominiq Penn – the Shamrocks’ biggest threat – scored 11 points, but needed 20 shots to get there.
Offensively, Liberty built a 19-point lead in the second half, using another 10-0 run to get there.
Roderick provided the highlights with a pair of dunks and a strong overall inside game. Nakasian scored 13 points and Mitchell Kershner added nine for the Patriots.
“I think it’s really important that me and Kershner bring some more scoring so that we’re not just relying on Ben,” Nakasian said. “He always produces and it helps us produce too.”
But, Saturday’s game also showed how the Patriots have struggled. Coffman scored eight straight points in the final minute to close within seven – knocking down a pair of three-pointers and forcing turnovers with a full-court press.
“We just need to get better handling ball pressure,” Roderick said. “We’ve been in every game – we just have a hard time closing out and making free throws. We’re trying every day in practice and I think we’re getting better at it. I feel like this is a big step in our (development).”
Nossaman said his team’s struggles have come from its strength of schedule.
“We’ve played a lot of good teams,” he said. “And when you play good teams you have to play solid for 32 minutes. We’ve just had little lapses.”
Will Hunter and Derek Van Vlerah had 12 points apiece to lead the Rocks (14-3), Luke Bartemes added 11 and Trevor Grady chipped in eight.
Next up, Liberty visits rival Olentangy in OCC-Buckeye action Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in a makeup of a game originally scheduled for Jan. 12.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.