St. Vincent-St. Mary (23-3) vs. Powell Olentangy Liberty (24-4)
What: Division I state semifinal.
Where: Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena at Ohio State University.
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
About St. V-M: The Irish return to the state tournament seeking their ninth state title. St. V-M has tournament wins this year over Firestone, Ellet, Copley, Olmsted Falls and Lima Senior. Coach Dru Joyce II consistently starts 6-foot-3 senior Lunden McDay, 5-11 senior Chris Painter, 6-5 senior Keyshawn Jones, 6-3 sophomore Seth Wilson and 6-5 sophomore Malaki Branham. Key reserves include seniors Darius Cone, Jordan Addison and Joshua Jones and juniors Isaiah Ingol and Marcus Johnson. McDay averages about 16 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. Wilson (about 13 points per game), Branham (about 12 points) and Painter (about 10 points) are solid.
About Liberty: The Patriots are making third first appearance in the state semifinals, but coach Greg Nossaman is no stranger to big games after leading Willard to the Division II state semifinals in 2001. Nossaman coached former University of Akron athletes Charlie Frye and Nick Dials while they were high school athletes at Willard, and he also coached against St. V-M on three occasions. Liberty’s starters are 6-foot-5 senior Ben Roderick, 5-10 senior Joey Thatcher and 6-4 seniors Nick Nakasian, Mitchell Kershner and Llwyatt Hofer. Key reserves include senior Jack Metzger, sophomore Henry Hinkle and junior Kal Jayaraman. Roderick averages about 28 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game, and has scholarship offers from UA, Ohio, Toledo and Miami. Xavier and Ohio State are also interested in Roderick. Nakasian, a Carnegie Mellon recruit, averages about 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game. Liberty has tournament wins this year over Hilliard Darby, Pataskala Licking Heights, Westerville North, Hilliard Davidson, Pickerington Central and Pickerington North.
Nossaman on Liberty: “This is new for us. We have six seniors who have been playing together since the fourth grade and this is a great opportunity for them. We have an eight-man rotation. … We have to take care of the basketball and rebound.”
Nossaman on St. V-M: “They pressure the basketball, they anticipate where the ball is going and they play great defense. They really thrive upon getting steals and going the other way very quickly. We want to definitely make it a half-court game and try to keep them off the glass. Offensively, they are very patient and they move the ball.”
Joyce on Liberty: “They are a senior-laden team. It looks like they have good size with a number of guys in that 6-4 to 6-5 range. I think that, honestly, we match up pretty well. … Their best player, Ben [Roderick], is an exceptional player. He does a great job in the post.”
— Compiled by Michael Beaven