The Orange boys basketball team needed help Friday night from New Albany, but more important for the Pioneers, they needed to take of their own business to even get a chance at a share of the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division title.
Orange opened strong, fought off a Hayes second-quarter rally and extended the lead in the second half en route to a 63-46 OCC Capital victory Friday night at Orange High School.
The Pioneers got even more welcome news before the end, finding out New Albany had indeed defeated Mount Vernon 47-44, giving Orange (15-5, 11-3 OCC Capital) a share of the division title.
“These kids are good,” Orange coach John Betz said. “We’ve had some bumps in the road, but I’ve always believed in them and they’ve always believed in each other. We knew, if we just stuck together, this would happen. From day one, this was a special group, and they deserve this.”
But Hayes (10-10, 7-7) showed its heart and toughness all game long. The Pacers, many of whom weren’t on the varsity roster at the start of the year, battled through injuries and a large early deficit to get back into the game.
“We knew coming into tonight we were going to have to play pretty close to our potential to win,” Hayes coach Jordan Blackburn said. “For the most part, we competed, but if you’re going to beat a good team, you need a couple other guys to step up, and we didn’t have that tonight.”
Orange got out to a strong start, but Hayes kept up through much of the first quarter, trailing just 12-9 with 2:30 left in the first, but Orange scored the final seven points of the period and the first seven of the second quarter to take a 26-9 lead with 6:18 left in the opening half.
“We knew we had to get out to a good start because we really haven’t started well in any of our losses,” Betz said. “The guys stuck with our game plan.”
But Hayes roared right back after that. The Pacers went on an 18-5 run in just under five minutes to cut the Pioneer lead to four, 31-27, with 1:33 left until halftime. Hayes junior Mike Wells was very active during that stretch, scoring 12 of the Pacers’ 18 during the run.
“We knew they were a little short-handed, but Mike Wells … holy cow,” Betz said. “He can play. We tried to do everything to get at him but he still got his points. Fortunately, our team had a few more.”
“Mike is very skilled, but we need him to pull a couple other guys with him,” Blackburn said. “If that happens, we can make a run in the tournament.”
Hayes also showed its toughness simply with the presence of sophomore Gaige Linville taking the court. Linville injured his right knee in the first quarter, but walked off under his own power and continued to play the rest of the game despite showing a pronounced limp.
“The one thing I like about Gaige and (freshman) Noble (Moore) is they both hate losing,” Blackburn said. “That can diffuse across a team. They both knew we would have had to play great tonight, but I just loved how furious they are right now.”
Orange took a seven-point, 36-29, lead at the half, and opened the third quarter with a 13-4 run to push the lead back to double digits. The Pacers would cut the lead to 11 after that, but could never get any closer.
Orange’s six seniors got plenty of action, and four found the scoring column, led by Andy Bosley’s 25 points. Junior Nick Deitsch hit four of the team’s six threes and finished with 20 points, while senior Matt Kurelic added 11 points, including one three.
“They’re the first group to be here for four years,” Betz said. “We’ve had other groups graduate first, but this has been their school for four years and they have three banners hanging up there on the wall. It’s pretty special.”
Wells closed with a game-high 29 points for Hayes, hitting all four of the Pacers’ three-pointers. Junior Griffin Kinney added six points while sophomores Linville and Jante Wright had four points apiece.
Buckeye Valley 65, River Valley 45
Buckeye Valley put the finishing touches on what was its third straight Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division championship Friday, capping the regular season with an impressive 65-45 win over visiting River Valley.
“We’ve won five of the last six league titles, and three straight, which tells you how seriously the guys take it,” BV coach Donovon Barrett said. “We play a 13-game league schedule, and a lot can happen in those 13 games, but we feel if we win the league we can compete in the tournament, too.”
The Barons certainly competed against the Vikings, rolling out to a big lead early on.
“We got off to a fast start, and played pretty well the whole game,” Barrett said. “We did a good job on the offensive boards and passed the ball pretty well.”
The Barons (14-6, 11-2 MOAC) led just 12-8 by the end of the first quarter, but outscored the Vikings 24-9 in the second, benefiting from five three-pointers, to take a 36-17 lead at the break.
Zach Hassinger led the BV attack, knocking down six three-pointers on the way to a game-best 24 points. Jordan Tomlinson was also solid, closing with 14 points and a team-leading nine assists.
The two seniors, Chris Jackson and Matt Novak, celebrated Senior Night with eight points each.
Westerville South 58, Liberty 57
The Patriots put together three quarters of the tough, competitive type of basketball they’ve played all season.
The final quarter, though, was a bit of a different story as the Wildcats used a 25-11 run to clip the Patriots at the buzzer to win Friday’s OCC clash in Westerville.
After being outscored 16-14 in the first, Liberty (18-2, 12-2 OCC) outscored the hosts 16-9 in the second and 16-8 in the third to secure a 46-33 lead heading into the final eight minutes of action.
Jake Bischoff and Nick Archer led the Patriots, as they have all season, with 15 points each. Alec Charbonneau was also productive, draining a pair of triples on the way to a nine-point outing.
Westerville North 68, Olentangy 61
The Braves put together a late surge, outscoring the Warriors 22-18 in the final frame, but the hosts won each of the first three quarters en route to an OCC-Cardinal Division win Friday in Westerville.
Stephen Walczak led Olentangy (10-10, 6-8 OCC) with 23 points. Seth Clark was also solid, closing with 10 points in the setback.