By Michael Rich
A pair of baseball passes, Drew Rosi’s strong final frame and Brendon White’s double-double was the difference in Olentangy Liberty’s 56-51 victory over host Olentangy Orange in non-league boys basketball action Saturday night in Lewis Center.
“Knowing that we beat both teams (Olentangy and Orange) in football and basketball — it feels great,” White said. “We’re here to compete, trying to be top-notch and show that we’re the best Olentangy school. I think we made a statement this year.”
White had 19 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals to pace the Patriots (10-9). All three assists came as the inbound passer.
“My coaches tell me to be calm when I’m out there … be patient when I’m out there,” White said. “I tried to pick up our defense as much as possible. I feel like better defense makes better offense. I was just trying to grind on the defensive end and the points just naturally came.”
“He’s good in space,” Patriots coach Greg Nossaman said. “I know he had a lot of rebounds — he’s a beast on the boards.”
Rosi scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter and had five rebounds. He hit a pair of free throws and followed on the next possession with an old-fashioned three-point play to extend a one-point Liberty advantage to six with 3:55 remaining.
Rosi pulled down an offensive rebound and fought through traffic to put it back to extend the lead to 46-38 two possessions later.
He had been held scoreless through the first three periods thanks to a combination of foul trouble and stout defense by Orange bigs Evan Lewis, Nathan Matthews and Grant Gossard, who had a game-high three blocks to go with 10 points and a pair of steals.
Zack Stablein pulled down a key offensive rebound before finding Matthews underneath to cut it to 48-46 with 40.6 seconds remaining.
But, the Patriots used their athleticism on the next possession. White threw a three-quarter-court baseball pass to Ben Roderick, who made an over-the-shoulder catch before finding Spencer Mitchell for the basket.
“They’ve got everybody up,” Nossaman said. “We’ve got good athletes that we want to throw it to. Ben came up to Brendon and said, ‘Hey, when I break, I’m open. So, if you lead me, I’m going to catch it.’ Ben’s a wide receiver on the football team.”
Mitchell finished with nine points, four boards and three assists and Roderick added six points and a pair of assists for the Patriots.
Liberty has had its share of tough defeats this season, particularly in the last couple of weeks, losing twice on baskets made in the last three seconds of games against Upper Arlington and New Albany.
So, when Colin Shepherd fed Cam Barron on the right wing for a three with two seconds left, Nossaman sensed that something wild was going to happen again.
“When they cut it to three, (I) kind of looked at my assistants and said, ‘are we doing this again,’” he said.
But then Roderick, the new inbound passer, found White on another baseball pass to avoid a foul before he laid it in at the horn.
“At the end, Brendon said let Ben take it out with two seconds,” Nossaman said. “‘I can beat my guy down the floor.’ So, as coaches, we have to listen to our players. They know what’s going on out there. It gives them ownership. They’re the ones that are making shots.”
The Pioneers (15-4) opened with the first four points of the game on baskets by Gossard and Shepherd. Jack Barnett’s three with 1:19 left in the first quarter gave the Patriots the lead for good and a 10-6 edge through one.
White scored Liberty’s first basket on an inbound from underneath the basket that he bounced off a defender’s back to himself before laying it in — something that Nossaman says that he’s tried before.
“That’s the first time it’s worked — he’s 1-for-5,” Nossaman said. “He looked at me (after the play) and winked.”
“I thought I missed (the layup) at first, but once it went in, I knew we were going to get it going,” White said.
Mitchell and Barnett each hit threes late in the second quarter to extend Liberty’s lead to 22-15 at the break.
Orange opened the third 9-4 to cut the lead to two, capped by Shepherd’s third bucket of the period. But, Liberty finished strong and led 32-26 through three.
Gossard caught a save attempt off his body under the basket, turned and stuffed it in to start an 8-3 spurt to help Orange cut the lead to 37-36 early in the fourth quarter. Shepherd had a pair of driving layups during the spurt.
Shepherd scored a team-high 16 points, Stablein added seven points and four rebounds and Josh Smith dished out four assists to go with a pair of steals for Orange.
Both teams are back in action against league opponents Tuesday night. Liberty hosts Hilliard Davidson and Orange visits Franklin Heights looking to stay in first place of the OCC-Capital. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Olentangy 83, Eastmoor 71
The Braves were just too deep for the host Warriors Saturday, using scoring from 10 different players to notch a non-league win.
Jason Sieve led the way with 20 points while Derrick Wyche finished with 14 and Seth O’Neal had 13.
Fisher Catholic 55, Delaware Christian 42
Adam Standley poured in a team-best 17 points and Andrew Dunnavant added 15, but no other Eagle scored more than five points as DCS fell to visiting Fisher Catholic Saturday in Delaware.
With the game tied at 28 at halftime, Fisher Catholic used an 18-8 third to build some separation en route to the win.
Olentangy used a 14-4 third quarter to balloon a 33-27 halftime lead into a comfortable cushion on the way to a 56-38 non-league win over host Centennial Saturday night.
Kelly Meade led the Braves with 17 points, eight of which came in the third quarter, while Allison Raiff added 14 points and Molly Delaney closed with 10.
Jonathan Alder 44, Buckeye Valley 34
The Barons outscored the Pioneers 11-5 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as the hosts notched an MOAC win Saturday at Jonathan Alder.
Morgan Scowden led BV with eight points, five rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists. Megan Veneman finished with seven points while Tess Hughes closed with six points and a team-best eight boards in the setback.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.