After a decade-plus drought, the Oak Hill Oaks are standing tall this morning over the Wheelersburg Pirates. Before a loud, packed and electric crowd at Oak Hill High School on Friday night, the Oaks put an end to a long losing streak to the powerhouse Pirates — and put themselves on the map as one of the top boys basketball teams in Southeastern Ohio.
Paul Boggs has more.
OAK HILL — After a decade-plus drought, the Oak Hill Oaks are standing tall this morning over the Wheelersburg Pirates.
Before a loud, packed and electric crowd at Oak Hill High School on Friday night, the Oaks put an end to a long losing streak to the powerhouse Pirates — and put themselves on the map as one of the top boys basketball teams in Southeastern Ohio.
The Oaks rallied from a 32-26 deficit to post a draining and dramatic 43-41 victory in a key early-season Southern Ohio Conference Division II contest.
Sophomore J.D. Hale broke a 41-41 tie with a free throw with 4.1 seconds remaining, then Kyle Ondera came up with the game-sealing steal of Wheelersburg’s Matt Jenkins.
Ondera, who was fouled by Jenkins, made one-of-two double bonus free throws with eight-tenths of a second on the clock.
A full-court Pirate pass, which was set up for a game-tying tip-in attempt, was intercepted by Hale to end the game.
With the win, the Oaks remain undefeated on the season at 5-0, and are now 2-0 in the SOC II. It was also the south countians’ first victory over the ‘Burg in several seasons.
Wheelersburg, the defending SOC II co-champion, falls for the first time in three tries this winter. They are 1-1 in the league after last week’s 54-51 win over Minford.
The Pirates, who have advanced to the Division III state semifinals the past two seasons, defeated the Oaks by 45 points in the regional tournament on March 14.
What a difference a year makes.
After the game, an exhausted Oak Hill coach Norm Persin discussed his team’s triumph.
“I’m real happy for our kids. A lot of people said before the season that Oak Hill is going to be good. But you don’t know how good you’re going to be until you play Wheelersburg,” said Persin. “Wheelersburg has had probably the best program — for years — in Southeast Ohio. They’re a team of quality that tied for the conference last year and has been back-to-back to the state tournament. Wheelersburg is so accustomed to playing in big games like this. Their kids are used to the pressure, big crowds and great atmosphere. I think it helped our kids grow up a little bit. We’ve come a long way.”
A long way in a short amount of time.
Oak Hill led 10-3 just 4:20 into the contest, but back came the Pirates to take a 32-26 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the third.
However, an 8-2 run by the Oaks put them back in front, capped off by a Casey Love three-pointer from the top of the key.
But the Pirates answered with a 6-1 surge of their own, as standout senior Drew Spradlin canned his own three-pointer from out top. That made the score 40-37 with just 3:10 remaining.
A basket by Ondera only 15 seconds later sliced the deficit to one, as two free throws by Ondera with a minute to play tied the game at 41-41.
The Pirates then tried to play for the final shot, running all but 50 seconds off the clock in the final minute.
They tried to isolate Spradlin on freshman Jesse Slone, but Spradlin’s shot in the lane fell short and Wheelersburg was called for an over-the-back foul on the rebound.
Hale, who was fouled on the board, then stepped to the line for double-bonus foul shots with four ticks to go.
He missed the first of the pair, but calmly sank the second to put Oak Hill ahead 42-41.
Jenkins then took the inbound pass for the Pirates, but was stolen from by Ondera as he tried to make a move at midcourt. Jenkins then fouled Ondera, all but wrapping up the Oaks’ big victory.
And, in a physical matchup, according to Persin.
“This was one really physical game for high school sports,” he said. “Both teams were physical and every possession was so important. We jumped out on them, we got in the rhythm early, then they came back and they could have knocked us out. It was just back and forth. We know it’s tough to knock them out. They’re too quality of a team and have so much tradition.”
The Oaks posted the first eight points of the night, as the Pirates finally tallied at the 4:04 mark of the first period.
Against the Oak Hill 2-3 zone, which featured variations, Wheelersburg missed its first five shot attempts and committed four turnovers.
For the game, the Pirates shot 30-percent (15-of-50), including only 3-of-18 from beyond the arc.
“Our zone gave them some problems, and we adjusted it and flip-flopped it to man-to-man a little bit,” said Persin. “We shaded the zone a little bit differently, too. I was happy with our kids’ effort. I was a little leery coming in because defensively, we weren’t playing as sound as we should have been. But we did tonight.”
Spradlin, who led all scorers with 16 points, converted an old-fashioned three-point play to finally put the Pirates on the board.
The Oaks led 10-3 and 18-12, but Wheelersburg rallied and outscored Oak Hill 24-16 over the middle two periods.
After Love knocked down his first trifecta with 6:48 in the second, the Oaks failed to score for the next five minutes.
A 9-0 Wheelersburg run, aided by four missed free throws and five turnovers by the Oaks, allowed for the Orange and Black to take a 21-18 lead with 2:15 to go before halftime.
The two teams entered the half tied 21-21, setting up the 41-41 draw with only a minute remaining.
The Pirates tried to push ahead in the third period, outscoring the Oaks 13-8 to stake a 34-29 advantage entering the fourth.
Spradlin, who scored seven points in the quarter including a three, capped the stanza in style by beating the buzzer with a scoop shot from his knees.
However, Oak Hill withstood Wheelersburg’s best shot, as a 7-0 run to start the fourth put the hosts ahead 36-34.
Love and Hale both hit two free throws, then Love put the Oaks in front with 5:23 to go. That would be Oak Hill’s last lead until Hale hit the game-winning foul shot in the final seconds.
In that final period, the Oaks doubled up the ‘Burg 14-7.
While most teams may have a love-hate relationship, the Oaks are blessed with Love and Hale.
After both scored 17 points against Wellston on Tuesday, the duo each netted 14 on Friday.
Love landed all three of the Oaks’ treys — one apiece in the final three quarters — and added 3-of-4 free throws. Hale, who battled foul trouble in the second half, hit three field goals and 8-of-11 at the charity stripe.
“I thought J.D. Hale was huge all night,” said Persin. “They really didn’t have an answer for him early. We got it down inside to him. J.D. has really come on, and he is healthy this year where he was sick last year. He wants the ball in there, he keeps it high and his potential is there.”
Ondera added 11 points, and nearly notched a double-double with nine of the team’s 28 rebounds. He also made off with three steals.
“Kyle Ondera ran the show, didn’t get frustrated, got us in our offense and didn’t turn it down,” said Persin.
Ondera, who only scored two field goals, sank 7-of-12 from the line.
As a team, the Oaks made 20-of-32 free throws on 26 Wheelersburg fouls. The Pirates made just 14 trips to the stripe.
Rounding out the Oak Hill scoring was Ryan Borden with four points, as Slone dished out four assists and grabbed five boards. Slone also shadowed Spradlin defensively.
J.T. Conley added nine points for Wheelersburg, including seven in the second half. Spradlin grabbed six boards as Conley caromed five.
While the win over Wheelersburg is indeed enjoyable, Persin cautioned that “there’s a lot of basketball still to be played.”
“This one is a win, but we’ll see where we go from here,” he said. “It’s still a long way and that’s my concern.”
The next concern for the Oaks is next Friday in the SOC II at Minford. They then take on River Valley on Saturday night in the Newt Oliver Classic at the University of Rio Grande.
The Oaks completed the sweep of the Pirates with another two-point triumph — 30-28 — in the reserve tilt. Drew Cannon led the winners with 14 counters.
* * *
Wheelersburg 10 11 13 7 — 41
Oak Hill 13 8 8 14 — 43
WHEELERSBURG 41 (2-1, 1-1 SOC II)
Matt Jenkins 1 0-0 3, Dustin Cook 0 1-2 1, J.T. Conley 4 1-2 9, Drew Spradlin 6 2-4 16, Tyler Lang 0 0-0 0, Andy Stegman 2 0-0 4, Dustin Proehl 1 0-0 2, Dustin Robertson 0 2-2 2, Matt Stegman 1 2-4 4; TOTALS 15 8-14 41; Three-point field goals: 3 (Drew Spradlin 2, Matt Jenkins 1)
OAK HILL 43 (5-0, 2-0 SOC II)
Casey Love 4 3-4 14, Jesse Slone 0 0-2 0, Kyle Ondera 2 7-12 11, Ryan Borden 1 2-3 4, Daniel Parker 0 0-0 0, J.D. Hale 3 8-11 14, Cody Cannon 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 10 20-32 43; Three-point field goals: 3 (Casey Love 3)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Wheelersburg 15-50 (.300), 2-point field goals 12-32 (.375), 3-point field goals 3-18 (.167); Oak Hill 10-28 (.357), 2-point field goals 7-15 (.467), 3-point field goals 3-13 (.231); Free throws— Wheelersburg 8-14 (.571), Oak Hill 20-32 (.625); Rebounds — Wheelersburg 24 (Drew Spradlin 6), Oak Hill 28 (Kyle Ondera 9); Steals — Wheelersburg 4, Oak Hill 6 (Kyle Ondera 3); Assists — Wheelersburg 7 (Dustin Cook 4), Oak Hill 7 (Jesse Slone 4); Blocks — Wheelersburg 0, Oak Hill 3 (Casey Love 2); Turnovers — Wheelersburg 12, Oak Hill 14; Team fouls — Wheelersburg 26, Oak Hill 18; JV SCORE— Oak Hill 30, Wheelersburg 28