By Michael Rich
The Olentangy boys basketball team used an 18-2 run in the first half to take the lead, then padded it en route to a 66-42 win over Big Walnut to open both the season and OCC-Capital play Friday night in Lewis Center.
Seth O’Neal scored a game-high 21 points and Derrick Wyche pulled down seven boards and had six blocks to lead Olentangy. Both are just getting their basketball legs after a deep run in the Division I OHSAA football playoffs.
“I felt good — I still have to get in better shape,” O’Neal said. “My teammates helped me out. I’m almost there. I’m getting winded a little too quick and I have to get my jump shot back, but other than that, I feel pretty good.
“His (Wyche) timing is impeccable. He has great hands and helped us out on the boards.”
O’Neal’s three-pointer gave Olentangy the lead at 9-8 and the Braves never trailed again.
“Big Walnut did a great job of starting off the game,” Olentangy coach Chris Kelly said. “Their possessions were really long possessions. So, we didn’t get that many opportunities. It took a long time for us to break out (Friday night).”
Hayden Bowmar put Big Walnut up early with a three, but Olentangy (1-0, 1-0 OCC) finished the quarter 9-2, which included a pair of threes by senior forward Austin Luxedor off the bench.
“That’s what he does,” Kelly said. “That was great — it was a great team win overall.”
The Braves opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run, started by a pair of O’Neal baskets and capped with a three-pointer by Brandon Mazzeo.
“That was huge … I was hopeful that run would come,” Kelly said. “But, I credit Big Walnut for their start tonight, taking care of the basketball and playing good defense.”
Austin Becker stopped the run for the Eagles with a three of his own.
Bowmar cut the lead to eight with another three, but Olentangy finished the period 9-1 to lead 33-17 at the half.
Olentangy cruised in the second half, outscoring the Eagles 33-25.
“That’s a really good team we just played,” Eagles coach Brett Bartlett said. “(They have) really good guard play, Wyche helps them out inside and they can score in multiple ways.”
Christian Mazzeo, Carter Kinnaird and Jason Sieve scored eight points each and Sam Hyberg pulled down eight rebounds off the bench for Olentangy.
“(Hyberg) had a great night of rebounding in his time out there,” Kelly said. “Our shooters on the outside opened up the driving lanes for Seth. Everybody knows, Seth will hit them if they’re open. So, the help defense has to stay there, which helps Seth get to the hoop. It’s great to have that combination.”
Big Walnut (0-3, 0-1 OCC) was led by Zac Chucta’s 10 points. Bowmar had eight points and Becker and Josh Seabrook added seven each.
“Bowmar’s been our most consistent player all year, so that’s a good sign for us,” Bartlett said. “Hopefully, he continues to do that and make more guys step up.
“We can’t hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves. We just gotta get ourselves to practice and try to get better.”
Both schools continue OCC-Capital play Tuesday night. Olentangy plays the second of five consecutive league games with Franklin Heights at home and the Eagles host Worthington Kilbourne.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.