No. 2 Ontario enjoying first ride in the NOL

ONTARIO – What an entrance.

Ontario is in its first season in the Northern Ohio League.

It has one more game on its conference schedule.

And it has yet to lose.

Four Warriors scored in double digits Tuesday night, as Ontario – No. 2 in the state’s Division II poll – won for the 20th straight time this season, beating Columbian, 65-42.

With the victory, Ontario clinched a share of the NOL title. It plays at Norwalk a week from Friday. Beat the one-loss Truckers, and the Bulldogs will claim the outright title.

“I think every season, one of the first goals we have is to win a conference championship,” Ontario coach Joe Balogh. “We knew with the team we had coming back that we could compete in this league and compete at a high level. I don’t think our kids expected anything else.”

The Warriors (11-0 NOL) were led by Cameron Mack’s 17 points. Three others – Tyler Boatwright, Brandon Wagner and Lenell Shelby – all scored 11 points each.

“The thing I’ve said about them,” Columbian coach Bill Beaston said, “of all the teams on our schedule, they’re the most complete. They have a point guard, they have shooters, they have a post player. And you don’t see that kind of a complete team all the time.”

The Warriors blitzed the Tornadoes with 3s, making seven in the win. Boatwright had three of them, but four other Ontario players hit one.

In addition, though the Warriors had 26 rebounds, they didn’t have one standout rebounder. Just about everyone chipped in.

“We’ve talked all year about how this team really shares the basketball,” Balogh said. “They have a lot of trust in each other. When we’re in difficult situations, they know who to get the ball to.”

Columbian (9-9, 4-5 NOL) took an early 6-5 lead on a layup by Derek Dryfuse, who led the Tornadoes with 18 points and nine rebounds. But Ontario quickly took command, leading 17-9 at the first stop and 34-19 at the half.

“It was a weird game,” Beaston said. “I don’t know what happened today or what happened in our pregame preparations, but we were off tonight. We didn’t have the usual intensity we have. We seemed short on energy; we seemed tired. Those are things we talked about after the game that, whatever we did today, we need to not do it again. We need that energy and we need that drive going forward to finish the season and head to the sectional.”

Donovan Walker had nine points for TC, with Isiah Moore adding seven rebounds and Josh Flint six.

Norwalk has a game this weekend with Mansfield St. Peter’s before closing out its season with the Truckers.

Balogh said he expects the game with Norwalk to be highly anticipated. Earlier this month, the Warriors ended the Truckers’ 57-game winning streak by beating them here.

“It was exciting the first time we played, and I’m sure the build up and the hype is going to be just as much,” Balogh said. “We’ll get ready to play St. Pete’s on Saturday, then come Monday we’ll start preparation for Norwalk.”