With the OCC schedule winding down, there are some races that are do or die (the Central, and Ohio divisions) and some races that are a mathematical lock (the Capital and Cardinal divisions). Here’s your recap, and at least one thing you need to know about each of the top teams in the Ohio Capital Conference going into tournament time.
New Albany (18-2, 12-0): What a season so far for the Eagles, with their only losses to Central division frontrunner Olentangy Liberty by 8, and Westerville South by 1 in the final seconds. Sam Davis’ squad is predicated on defense and so far this year they’ve dominated by only allowing 50+ points 4 times the whole season. Expect the Eagles to make a deeper run than in years past.
Delaware (12-5, 8-3): A solid season so far for the Pacers. Also for tournament success, you’d have to expect guard Mike Wells to play better than he did in their worst loss of the year, a 79-47 blowout at Westland on Jan. 22. The Pacers could surprise people if Wells and Co. come ready to play.
Olentangy (11-7, 8-3): The Braves have been coming on strong to close the year, winners of 4 of their last 5, with the lone loss in that stretch at New Albany by 3. Big games against Olentangy Orange and Delaware could be a crucial boost going into tournament time.
Westerville North (17-1, 11-0): As many expected, the Warriors have played at a high level this year, using great guard play from the trio of Jaylen Benton, Jack Gibbs, and Adrian Cook leading the way for North. Also, the front court of the Warriors has been solid, led by junior Alex Stewart, shooting 57.9% from the field. Their only loss was to Brookhaven, the day after a crucial win over Dublin Scioto at home to seal the Cardinal division trophy. My pick to win at least a district title, and the favorite to come out of the Columbus regional.
Dublin Scioto (16-3, 9-3): A roller-coaster ride as of late for the Irish has kept Scioto fans on their toes through the end of the season. The Irish played Westerville North to the bitter end two Fridays ago, losing by 7 on the road. However, the following Tuesday they responded by dominating Westerville South 68-49. A scoreless third quarter at crosstown rival Jerome caused the downswing on the coaster, falling 41-35. Scioto will get their last major test of the regular season when they host Reynoldsburg Tuesday.
Westerville South (13-6, 8-4): Although out of contention for the Cardinal division title, the Wildcats will always be a threat in the tournament, using the defensive strategy and winning ways of head coach Ed Calo, who famously knocked off unbeaten Northland in five years ago in the 2008 district semifinal, en route to the district championship. This year’s bunch has shown promise, taking crosstown rival North to the final seconds, and defeating previously mentioned New Albany by 1. Don’t sleep on the Cats this year.
Olentangy Liberty (18-1, 11-1): As the new members in the Central division, they have basically replicated what they did last year so far, winning any way they can. Their lone loss this year was at Westland, and they dominated the rematch last Friday, defeating the Cougars 58-44 at home. Junior center Mike DeLeon is third in the area in field-goal percentage (60.2%) and they will need him tonight as they play for basically the league championship tonight, at Dublin Coffman.
Dublin Coffman (15-3, 11-1): Another year, another chance at an OCC title for the Shamrocks. The Rocks have done it once again, taking control of the Central and their only league loss was a road game at Olentangy Liberty. SInce the loss at Liberty, the Shamrocks have won 8 of their last 9. Coffman has been in contention for a league championship the last 3 of the last 4 years, winning once in 2008-’09, and sharing a title with Upper Arlington the following year.
Westland (14-5, 8-4): Although they started the 2012-’13 campaign at 14-2, the Cougars have dropped their last three, against some of the best teams in Central Ohio, falling to Liberty, Watterson, and Coffman in their last three trips on the floor. Guard Cory Beesler is has been the best from beyond the arc anywhere in the state all year, shooting 55.9%, an OHSAA record if he keeps his current pace. The Cougars will get to close out the year with two very winnable games, home against Franklin Heights and at crosstown rival Central Crossing.
Reynoldsburg (15-4, 9-3): A three-way tie atop the Ohio division will make for an interesting close to the year, and in front by overall record alone is Reynoldsburg. First-year coach Scott Davis had the Raiders on a strong start, winning 13 of their first 14, including wins at Grove City and defending champion Pickerington Central. The Raiders have struggled down the stretch however, losing 4 of their last 6. Tonight’s matchup at Newark will be the last crucial game in terms of the Ohio division title.
Pickerington Central (12-6, 9-3): The defending 2012 Division I state champions have taken a small step back this year, but albeit in a tough division, and tougher non-conference schedule, including Northland, and Shaker Heights. Although they have no games left against the other top 2 foes in the Ohio division, they can take a big step forward tonight with a win against Groveport.
Newark (11-7, 8-3): After a 54-36 loss to Reynoldsburg on January 8th, the Wildcats have reeled off 6 OCC wins, and have a chance to avenge the loss to the Raiders tonight at home. Newark also controls more of its destiny than the others, playing Gahanna on the 12th also for another key league game.