DUBLIN, Ohio -- Olentangy Liberty continued to build on an outstanding victory against Pickerington North this weekend by knocking off a red hot Dublin Jerome team 57-48 on Tuesday, snapping the Celtics six game win streak.
While the Patriots did reign victorious, it was a hard fought match up from the tip as Dublin Jerome controlled the first quarter, leading 12-6 after one.
Most of their success was centered around taking away star senior Ben Roderick, who saw blitz’s on ball screens, double teams in the post, and a swarm of crashing help defenders every time he drove into the lane. The Celtics were adamant on not getting beat by the areas second leading scorer.
Jerome received early scoring contributions from the senior duo of Matthew Montgomery and Joey Pickering, who combined for 10 points. This left the Patriots scrambling to find secondary scoring that was not provided early.
After a tough first quarter, Liberty finally found the spark they needed without Roderick who was sidelined for a period in the second quarter with foul trouble. Senior wing Nick Nakasian and sophomore guard Henry Hinkle combined for 11 of their 16 second quarter points.
Despite outscoring Dublin Jerome in this quarter, the full court zone press of the Celtics started to make a major difference. This was a clear issue as Liberty’s guards are not ideal ball handlers with elite size to see the openings over top of the press, which resulted in lost possessions, missed opportunities, and the occasional easy bucket for the Celtics who were still holding onto a 23-22 lead at halftime.
It was only a matter of time before Roderick started to get into the game for the Patriots, however.
After a perfectly executed first half gameplan, the senior wing erupted for 11 of his game high 20 points in the third quarter as he thrived in transition and attacking closeouts in the weak side corner out of the Jerome full court zone press. Roderick’s surge, combined with a sloppy third quarter where the Celtics committed a few turnovers and missed quality open looks resulted in a 40-32 Liberty lead heading into the last quarter.
The resiliency of the gritty Jerome team should never be questioned as they surged back into the game early in the fourth. After a huge early run by senior forward Trey Ballengee and junior guard Dan Lee, the deficit was cut to one as the Patriots were forced to call a timeout. As the fourth quarter continued, Liberty slowly scraped their way ahead inch by inch, leading by seven with 2:41 left.
After a pair of missed free throws and a possession that milked nearly a minute off the clock, Hinkle finished with at the rim through contact drawing the foul call and demoralizing the home crowds spirit as the Patriots led by 11 with 1:40. After a few free throws the game ended with a final score of 57-48
Dublin Jerome now moves to 10-5 on the season, but they are not discouraged by this tough loss.
“It was a great learning experience and litmus test," Dublin Jerome coach Richie Beard said. "We know we can compete and win a district title, but our attention to detail and grittiness must be elite for us to accomplish that. We were just a little short.”
The Celtics will look to recover against Hilliard Darby on Friday, and look for them to continue to make some noise throughout the end of the season. They are an incredibly well coached team with talented players that can expose a ton of matchup problems with a majority of their roster being 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-5 with great frames and versatility on both sides of the ball.
Olentangy Liberty now moves to 13-4 on the season and remains one of the top Division I teams in the area and should continue to build onto their impressive resume on Friday at Westerville North.
Nick Nakasian (6’3 WF / Olentangy Liberty / 2019): Nakasian was incredible tonight. Finishing with 16 points, the Carnegie Mellon commit was more impressive as a passer than a scorer. Early on in the game, he was able to attack the zone looks from Jerome off spots ups and made quick decisions once getting into the lane to find open cutters. Continuing to make one exceptional low usage pass after another to create good looks for his teammates or initiate ball movement, he also made a few backdoor cuts within the zone leading to a dunk and easy layups.
I’m a big fan of Nakasian’s game and look forward to keeping an eye on his collegiate career. His style of play should allow him to be a player that can thrive in an off ball role once he develops a more consistent shooting stroke. As a solid athlete with exceptional leaping explosion, I would like to see him continue to develop as a mover laterally to make him more of an on ball threat defensively. The senior already showcases a wide array of valuable on ball skill, and his passing vision and decision making off the dribble should make him a productive collegiate wing.
Trey Ballengee (6’4 WF / Dublin Jerome / 2019): Ballengee led the Celtics in scoring with 17 points. The senior wing possesses an intriguing set of skills at 6-foot-4 with the strength of a collegiate four to pair with a good handle, and burst off the dribble. This can cause a lot of mismatches for opposing teams like we saw today where he was switched onto a smaller Liberty guard on a ball screen and just backed him down for an easy layup. Another player that stood out for his passing prowess, the forward did an outstanding job of reading the weak side of the floor once driving into the lane. One beautiful read stood out in particularly, where Ballengee drove baseline as the help took away the simple opposite corner read, he whipped the ball over to the weak side wing for a wide open three. He also has the movement ability with his size and strength to become a versatile defender in the future.
As a slashing wing with a great feel for the floor as a passer, Ballengee would likely thrive best in an uptempo collegiate system where he could add potential value as both a transition handler on grab and go’s and a transition finisher converting shots at the rim off significant momentum and applying his athletic tools. I’d like to see him continue to develop his decision making as ball handler, along with off the ball on the defensive end of the floor. Regardless, he is a player that Division III's and NAIA’s should be in touch with immediately.