By appearing in its 12th consecutive Division III district championship tilt, the Oak Hill High School girls basketball team is better by the dozen. Now, the Lady Oaks are aiming for yet another run to the regionals.
Paul Boggs has more.
OAK HILL — By appearing in its 12th consecutive Division III district championship tilt, the Oak Hill High School girls basketball team is better by the dozen.
Now, the Lady Oaks are aiming for yet another run to the regionals.
In what’s become an all-too-familiar theme, the Lady Oaks are once again playing for a Division III district championship at the Downtown Arena in Waverly.
On Saturday, the opponent is the Alexander Spartans, with tipoff time set for 4 p.m.
Oak Hill enters the final with a record of 16-6, and has won seven straight games including Saturday’s convincing district semifinal win over Nelsonville-York.
Veteran Oak Hill head coach Doug Hale had hoped his young Lady Oaks would improve as the season progressed.
They have done just that, with all six of their losses coming to four teams (22-0 South Webster, 20-2 Wheelersburg, 14-8 Minford and 16-6 Ironton) which advanced to the district tournament.
The combined record of those four clubs is a staggering 72-16.
Oak Hill returned just three seniors, and many of the Lady Oaks lacked varsity experience early in the season.
Not so at this point of the winter.
“This is what we kind of predicted,” said Hale. “I felt if we kept improving, and the younger girls would become more comfortable with the system, we’d eventually be playing well and have a chance to do well in the tournament. Our three seniors have really meshed well with our younger kids and we’re playing well at the right time. We’re excited to be playing in our 12th straight district championship game.”
For those into the transitive property, the Oaks have beaten Alexander once this season, while Alexander owns a win over Nelsonville-York.
On Dec. 15, as part of the annual Alexander Hoops Invitational at the Ohio University Convocation Center, the host Lady Spartans lost to the Lady Oaks 54-31.
However, according to Hale, that outcome means little come Saturday in Waverly.
“Our last game with Alexander was out of the ordinary — at 9 a.m. on a Saturday on the Convo floor — which doesn’t have much of an impact on this game,” said Hale. “We came out and shot the ball well early on, played good defense and got on them at the start.”
Although, Oak Hill also defeated Alexander in the same Hoops Invitational at the same Convocation Center last season.
The Lady Spartans rebounded, though, and advanced all the way to the Division III state tournament.
This year, Alexander overcame a slow start — impacted by the team’s second straight appearance in the Division III state volleyball tournament — and is now 14-8 overall.
Last Saturday, in their semifinal match, the Spartans rallied to defeat top-seeded Huntington 40-37.
Alexander held Huntington scoreless in the final four minutes, and stymied star Lydia Bridenbaugh — the two-time Scioto Valley Conference Player of the Year — to only 12 points.
“Alexander didn’t back down when they were down by seven to Huntington who was 21-2,” said Hale. “It’s going to be a tough ballgame and we have a lot of respect for Coach (Denton) Guthrie and for the Alexander program.”
The Lady Spartans, who placed second in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division, handed division champion Vinton County its only league loss.
Alexander is paced by junior Whitney Smith, who averages 15 points and seven rebounds per game. Her running mate is Lauren Raines, who averaged 12 points and four boards during the regular season.
After graduating the likes of Keilee Guthrie and Jami Turrill, this year’s Lady Spartans sport just one senior — center Lacey Shaulis.
The Lady Oaks, on the other hand, are led by the triple-K threat of Karissa, Kaylin and Karla. As in sophomore Karissa Adkins and seniors Kaylin Marshall and Karla Moore.
Adkins, who amassed a game-high 23 points in the 69-44 ousting of the Buckeyes, paces the team in scoring at 16 points per game.
Marshall averages a double-double 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Moore — primarily a three-point shooter and defender — led the team with 21 treys.
Freshman point guard Mikie Strite, who hit four threes against the Buckeyes, was second on the team in trifectas with 15.
“We can’t turn the ball over and we have to shoot and pass well again,” said Hale.
However, Hale believes the game will be decided on the defensive end. Look for the Lady Oaks to rely on their patented full-court pressure attack.
“We have to play good sound team defense,” said Hale. “You have to when you play an Alexander team. Denton (Guthrie) does a great job with them and they are tournament-tested just like we are. They’ve been to the district finals a number of times like we have.”
The Lady Oaks are accustomed to the regional tournament, and advanced all the way to the Division III state championship game four years ago.
While this year’s version may be younger and not the most highly-touted, Oak Hill still knows how to shine during tournament time.
“We know what the tournament means and how special and important it is,” said Hale. “It’s something we look forward to and are excited about every year.”
And, by appearing in their 12th straight district title bout, the Lady Oaks are better by the dozen.