KETTERING — Playing in the nation’s second-ranked basketball showcase event in front of a packed crowd of rabid basketball fans, Xenia had every excuse to be nervous during their Jan. 13 boys basketball game at the Flyin’ to the Hoop basketball showcase event at James S. Trent Arena.
And they were.
But the Buccaneers loosened up late in the first half, and for much of the second, to claim a 67-60 win over Olentangy Liberty.
“Yes sir, we were very nervous in that first half,” Xenia’s Samari Curtis admitted. “We came out with a slow start. It was 5 to 13 after the first quarter, and we were down 31-24 at the half, but we turned it around in the second half.”
After hitting just over 39 percent of their shots in the opening 16 minutes of play, the Buccaneers came alive in the second half. Xenia scored on 59.1 percent of its shots (13 of 22) the rest of the way.
The Bucs outscored Liberty 19-10 in the third quarter to take a 43-41 lead, then continued to outscore the Patriots over the final 8 minutes of play (24-19) to claim the win.
Curtis led Xenia (7-6) with 25 points, Jay Evans finished with 16 and Meechi Harris was also in the double-figure scoring club with 13 points.
“After the first quarter, we got the game up-and-down the floor a little bit more to our liking, and our athletes were able to do what they needed to do,” Xenia coach Kent Anderson said. “I’m just happy to come up with a win like that on this stage in this environment. That’s the most people some of our kids will ever play in front of, so to get a win against a quality team like that, that’s a big time win for us. It’s a great win.”
Patriots coach Greg Nossaman said Saturday’s game was the kind of battle he wanted his team to be involved in, saying that it will help Liberty (5-6 in the Ohio Capital Conference’s Buckeye Division) become game-ready for the post season.
“It was great. I loved it. We brought our kids over here to experience this, and we start five juniors, so hopefully we’ll be back to play here next year,” he said. “This gets us out of our comfort zone in Powell, Ohio and gives us a chance to play other good teams from other parts of the state.
“This is a great basketball venue, and it was an entertaining game for people to watch. Xenia made a lot more free throws than we did tonight, and that was a big difference in the ball game.”
Ben Roderick, a 6-foot-5 junior, led all scorers with 26 points. He has scholarship offers from Stoney Brook, Tennessee-Martin, Ohio University and Akron, and is gaining attention from Ohio State, Iowa and Xavier, according to his coach. Fellow junior Mitchell Kershner finished with 16 points.
While Liberty finished with a higher shooting percentage from the free-throw line (7-for-12 for 58.3 percent), Xenia had more the double the free throw chances. The Buccaneers connected on 57.7 percent of their free throws, scoring on 15 of 26 attempts.
Harris, Corey Burnette, Curtis and Norde’ Uloho combined to hit 11 of 13 free throws in the final quarter.
With a record above the .500 mark (7-6) for the first time this season, Xenia returns to its own gymnasium for its next contest. The Buccaneers will take on Greenville for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Friday, Jan. 19.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.