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Down Goes Pick Central: Roderick leads Olentangy Liberty into the regional final

By Zach Fleer, 03/14/19, 9:00PM EDT

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For the first time since 2016, Pickerington Central won't play in a regional final

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For the first time since 2016, Pickerington Central won't play for a spot in the state final four.

Behind a dominant 29 points and 12 rebounds from senior Ben Roderick, Olentangy Liberty upset Pickerington Central in overtime, 66-58.

Roderick was undoubtedly the key, as the 6-foot-6 senior wing provided Liberty with the type of high-level performance it needed to overcome the Central juggernaut. Roderick scored 11 points in the first half to help the Patriots maintain a 23-19 lead at the break. 

In a third quarter that went back and forth, Liberty held Central scoreless in the final two minutes, as an inside score from Roderick and big three from Mitch Kershner helped Liberty take a 41-35 lead into the final frame.

In the opening minute of the fourth, it looked like Liberty was ready to run away with the game as another big three from Kershner opened the Patriot lead to 47-35 with 6:50 to go.

Central didn't panic, as its full court pressure forced Liberty into a litany of turnovers, helping the Tigers stay within a few possessions the rest of the way. That high-level full court pressure gave Central the opportunity it needed all game, as a deep three from senior Jaidon Lipscomb tied the game at 56 with 10 seconds to go. 

The final possession of regulation ultimately decided the game, as Henry Hinkle was fouled with 0.8 seconds to go. While Hinkle missed both free throws, it was who the foul was on that was the clincher.

Picking up his fifth foul on the play, Central senior Javohn Garcia would then have to miss all of overtime, which was a huge blow to the Tigers in the extra period. 

Running 70 seconds off the clock on its first possession of overtime, Liberty struck gold once again from Kershner, who buried a huge right wing triple to put the Patriots up 59-56 with 2:50 remaining. 

From that point forward, Central never led again as two Lipscomb free throws got the Tigers as close as 59-58 with 2:01 to go.

Liberty struck its final blow, as two Roderick layups increased the Patriot lead to 63-58 with 1:17 left on the clock. 

Central never scored again after the 1:26 mark, as Liberty handed the Tigers its first tournament loss in the Central District since March 9, 2016.

Cruising to a 66-58 victory, Liberty moves on to the regional final to take on No. 5 Pickerington North on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Ohio Dominican.

Liberty took down the Panthers in their regular season meeting, beating Pickerington North 75-64 at the Scholastic Play By Play Classic on January 26. 

Roderick led Liberty with 29 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. The 6-foot-6 wing knocked in 11 field goals, including back-to-back threes in the third quarter that helped Liberty survive a slow start and take the lead back from the Tigers.

The unsigned senior showed the big-time scoring potential that he has, as Central had no true matchup for him and it showed. Roderick worked well within the Liberty offense, finding open shooters all game long, as Kershner added 15 points on three key triples in the final 13 minutes of the game. 

Senior forward Nick Nakasian added 11 points and five rebounds, also knocking in a pair of threes and providing Liberty with some much-needed stability. 

For Central, Garcia led the way with 20 points and five rebounds. The 6-foot-3 guard was the source of the Tigers' entire offense, which showed heavily without him on the floor in overtime, as Central struggled to create offense in the half court. Sophomore wing Garner Wallace added 20 points and five rebounds, playing a solid game on both ends of the floor.

Lipscomb added six points on two triples while senior center Coleton Landis added eight points and seven rebounds.

No other Tiger player added more than two points, as Central got almost zero offense from outside five feet, knocking in three triples on the entire night.

On the other end, Liberty sank 10 threes and played the type of efficient basketball needed to knock off a Tiger team that had won its last 15 tournament games in the Central District. 

With a chance to reach its first-ever state tournament, Liberty will look to take down a Pickerington North team that is hoping to do the same. Both teams are playing excellent basketball and are hot at the right time, which should create for a highly entertaining regional final on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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