HILLIARD, Ohio -- “Big time players make big time plays in big time games.”
According to Santana Moss, we saw a lot of big time players in Hilliard Davidson’s thrilling 64-62 win over Olentangy Liberty on Tuesday night.
Davidson senior Jacob Drees was the biggest one of them all, knocking down a game-winning jump shot with six tenths of a second remaining to secure the win for the Wildcats.
Both teams came out of the gates on fire and Liberty jumped out to a quick 7-6 lead after we saw the first six shots of the night fall. Davidson junior big man Gage Keys set the tone for the game in the first, however, as he dominated the glass to the tune of nine points and three boards after the first.
The second frame was the polar opposite of the first, unfortunately, and we did not see our first bucket of the quarter until Liberty senior Jack Metzger knocked down a three pointer with 5:11 to go.
Davidson gained some momentum by way of a few quick scores after, but senior Joey Thatcher knocked down one his many important three’s tonight shortly after with a minute to play in the half. This bucket cut the Hilliard Davidson lead to just 29-26 at half.
Olentangy Liberty looked like a completely different team to start the second half, however, and a quick 7-0 run capped off by a steal-and-slam from senior Ben Roderick gave them a 33-29 lead two minutes into the quarter. Davidson answered with a three-pointer shortly after, but Thatcher knocked down a triple of his own to force a Wildcats timeout.
After the timeout, it was all Davidson for the next minute. After a three-pointer from senior Caleb Stimmel, Carson Felicetty and Drees each made a triple of their own and Davidson found themselves back in the driver’s seat, leading 42-36 with two minutes to go in the third.
Liberty answered with a quick six unanswered points, but Keys threw down a monster and-one slam just seconds before the buzzer to increase the Wildcats lead to 44-40 going into the fourth.
Davidson opened up the final frame with two huge three-pointers from Stimmel to increase their lead to 52-44, a comfortable advantage with five minutes to go. The Wildcats maintained this lead and also forced Roderick and Nick Nakasian to four fouls a piece, helping their odds of pulling this one out greatly.
Not so fast, said Joey Thatcher. The senior knocked down two huge three-pointers to cut the lead to 59-57 with :50 seconds to go. The next minute involved missed free-throws, made shots, and found Liberty trailing just 62-59 with 25 seconds remaining.
The Patriots stayed calm, and what happened next nobody had expected.
With all eyes on Roderick, the senior handed the ball off to Thatcher on a give-and-go and he buried a three-pointer to tie it at 62 with :16 seconds remaining.
Hilliard Davidson put the ball in the hands of their go to senior Drees on the next possession, and he got the job done. Dribbling hard downhill to the right side, Drees turned around at the elbow, let it fly, and knocked it down. Officials gave Liberty six tenths of a second on the clock after this, but they failed to get a shot off, securing a big home win for Davidson.
Roderick led all scorers with a solid showing of 22 points, seven rebounds and four steals. He had his way with the Davidson defense tonight, using his strong frame and beautiful shooting stroke to the test. Thatcher also chipped in with 15 points on a breakout night for the senior role player. Senior and Carnegie-Melon commit Nick Nakasian also scored 16 points.
The Patriots fall to 10-4 with the loss and will look to bounce back this Friday with an OCC-Buckeye matchup against Westerville South.
For Davidson, Drees and Keys each led the way with 17 points a piece. Keys finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds as well. It was the leadership (and clutch shooting) of Drees that helped Davidson hold on late.
Felicetty also chipped in with 14 points and Stimmel had 13. They both did this by knocking down four triples a piece. Two of the best shooters in the area, any D-III in need of the three-pointer should look no further than Felicetty and Stimmel.
Davidson moves to 10-3 with the win and has a huge test this Friday at Upper Arlington.