COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Entering the season as heavy favorites to win the OCC-Cardinal, Thomas Worthington tonight paired against division-leading Olentangy and proved they will remain favorites after a sound 65-52 victory.
It was not a kind start for the Braves. Only scoring three points in the first quarter, Olentangy had turnover problems and no success either shooting the ball or challenging Thomas Worthington’s Tyrese Hughey in the paint.
The senior Hughey was a complete force in the first half, as he made two impressive three-pointers that showcased a nice jab step and finish from deep. He added two blocks on the defensive end and negated any type of interior scoring from the Braves.
The Cardinals started the second half with a 27-14 lead, but the Braves put together their best quarter of the game in the third.
After going scoreless in the first half, Olentangy’s Tavian James scored nine points in the third, along with five points from junior Ethan Smith and brought the Braves within single digits.
However, the balanced scoring trio of Hughey, senior Jalen Sullinger, and sophomore Joey Zalewski were too much for the Braves to handle.
Sullinger took control in the second half, as he scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth and displayed some impressive assists, including a perfect alley-oop lob to Hughey.
Hughey was the Cardinals leading scorer with 19 points. Zalewski finished with 17 points and also a game-high seven rebounds.
If it weren’t for Olentangy’s Smith, the Braves would have been in serious trouble. The five-foot-nine point guard was deadly from deep, making five three-point attempts. He led Olentangy with 19 points, while James chipped in 16, all in the second half.
The Braves drop their first game in the Cardinal division, but get a chance to earn back a win when they visit Marysville this Friday.
After a bumpy start to the season, the Cardinals now find themselves winners of three straight and look to make it four when they host Olentangy Berlin on Friday.
Tyrese Hughey (6'7 PF / Thomas Worthington / 2021): Simply put, Hughey was flat-out fun to watch this evening. The Furman-commit displayed a smooth range from deep as he connected on two three-pointers and also finished at a high rate around the rim. Olentangy really struggled to get any scoring done in the paint and that was mostly due to Hughey’s presence and shot-blocking ability. He hustled on all ends, finished an emphatic alley-oop dunk and had two beautiful assists. For his size, Hughey is not only athletic, but has exceptional coordination that makes him an asset in multiple ways. He’ll need to continue these types of performances against top tier competition for Thomas Worthington to win a second straight District championship.
Jalen Sullinger (5'11 PG / Thomas Worthington / 2021): Sullinger delivered an efficient 18-point performance that included zero three point attempts. That’s right. One of Central Ohio’s best long-range shooters didn’t have any attempts from deep, but instead read what the Olentangy defense gave him by driving in the paint and getting to the free throw line. The Kent State-commit went 12 of 13 behind the stripe, nine of which came in the final period and prevented any chance of an Olentangy comeback. Beyond scoring, Sullinger is constantly active on defense and almost always seems to be in the area of loose balls and rebounds, as he finished with six boards tonight. It wasn’t the most dazzling performance we’ve seen from Sullinger, but it was every bit productive and got the job done.
Joey Zalewski (6'3 WF / Thomas Worthington / 2023): We’ve now seen multiple performances from the sophomore and we’re now confident to say Zalewski is one of the area’s best hustlers, regardless of class. Every game we’ve watched from Zalewski this season, he is grabbing rebounds, diving for loose balls and taking charges. Once again, he did all of the above tonight. Thomas Worthington received a blow when vetern wing guard Isaac Settles was declared injured, yet Zalewski has helped fill that role and then some for the Cardinals . A two-sport athlete that played football in the fall, Zalewski has a strong, aggressive frame that frustrates opponents. As the season continues, we expect Zalewski’s role to only emerge.
Ethan Smith (5'9 PG / Olentangy / 2022): By far the best shooter of the evening, Smith’s five three-pointers and overall 19 points is what kept Olentangy somewhat in reach throughout the game. Not only was Smith a marksman from deep, but he worked his tail off, competing on the defensive end and pushing the overall tempo for the Braves. Also a good ball handler and playmaker, we saw Smith dish out three assists tonight. Despite being undersized and having a thin frame, we loved how Smith competed and will expect him to be an emerging leader for the Braves this year.