ATHENS — Norm Persin is used to winning district championships.
His Oak Hill Oaks are getting the hang of it too.
For the second straight season, the Oak Hill High School boys basketball team has captured a district championship, having defeated Manchester 67-57 on Saturday at the Ohio University Convocation Center in Athens.
After winning a Division III crown last season, the Oaks are the Division IV district champions this March.
The district titles mark the only ones in school history, and the only ones in the history of boys basketball in Jackson County.
Which means a return trip to the regional tournament, which is being held tonight at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus.
The Oaks, which improved to an impressive 20-3 with the win over Manchester, encounter Harvest Prep tonight in the Division IV regional semifinals.
Tipoff time is set for 8 p.m.
Persin, a veteran of the regional tournament while coaching 21 years at Chesapeake, is 2-for-2 in district championships in his two years back at Oak Hill.
Persin compared the two titles, last year’s in which the Oaks made a historic yet improbable run and this year’s in which they were a Division IV favorite.
“Last year was the first ever and nobody thought we could do it. When we took over, people said it would take three or four years to turn the program around. So we got hot at the end of the year and played remarkable in the tournament. But we were senior-dominated last year. This year, we dropped down a division, but we’re playing younger kids and a lot of these kids haven’t been here and haven’t been through this. The pressure is mounted in the tournament and I’m used to that from Chesapeake. These kids aren’t right now.”
And, at times on Saturday, the Oaks appeared ripe for the upset by the Greyhounds.
Manchester led 20-10 midway through the second period, and erased a 29-24 halftime deficit to stake a 40-37 lead with 2:37 remaining in the third.
But the Oaks regained the five-point edge at the end of the quarter, and eventually doubled the Greyhounds for the 10-point final.
Their largest lead of the afternoon stood at 67-55.
However, in a game of spurts, it was the pair by Oak Hill which proved to be the difference.
Trailing 20-10 with 4:35 remaining in the second stanza, the Oaks ended the half with a 19-4 run to stake a five-point advantage at intermission.
But the Greyhounds raced back midway through the third, erasing a six-point (30-24) deficit in a span of four-and-a-half minutes.
The Greyhounds went from down six to up one in 4:08, and led by three (40-37) just 22 seconds later.
However, the Oaks scored 10 unanswered to lead 47-40 just 15 seconds into the final canto.
Manchester could cut the deficit to no closer than three on four different occasions throughout the fourth.
The Oaks made free throws in the second half as well, after attempting just three in the second quarter and none in the first.
For the day, Oak Hill was 19-of-31 at the stripe, including 9-of-13 by sophomore Kyle Ondera and 6-of-10 by junior Ryan Borden.
Ondera was 4-of-6 in each of the last two periods while Borden was 2-of-2 in the third and 4-of-8 in the fourth.
“We brought the kids in and shot a lot of free throws today in the gym before we got on the bus to come over here,” said Persin. “We shot for 35 minutes, so every kid probably shot like 200 free throws today. I said these were going to be huge.”
Borden and Ondera led the Oaks with 25 and 20 points respectively, including a big game from Borden with 17 points in the second half.
He finished with eight total field goals, including three three-pointers.
Persin said Borden “needed this” after struggling in the semifinal win over Leesburg Fairfield.
“Ryan and I had a long talk and I told him that he was fighting himself,” said the coach. “I told him when he was not making shots, the rest of your game is not what we need it to be. I told him not to let shooting affect everything else you do. A shooter has to have a shooter’s touch, it’s just like putting on the golf course. It was important that either Ryan or J.D. Hale step up tonight for us to win this game. Your older kids have to step up.”
Two of his treys came in the second period, and occurred back-to-back to bring the Oaks to within one at 22-21.
With a minute-and-a-half remaining in the half, Oak Hill took its initial lead after an Ondera basket. His three-pointer to beat the first-half buzzer made it 29-24.
Persin talked about the tide turning in Oak Hill’s favor.
“We had called a timeout down 20-10, and we just told our kids it’s now or never,” he said. “We weren’t playing with any energy and I just didn’t like our rotations in our zone. We were sloppy, our hands weren’t up, we weren’t rotating and we were giving them uncontested looks. But we came out of that timeout and went man-to-man (defense), we got a couple of shots by Ryan Borden and we got a couple of steals.”
Ondera, after leading the Oaks with 22 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Fairfield, added five total field goals including the second-period three.
He scored 10 points in each half.
He also tallied eight rebounds, a team-high five assists and a game-high five steals.
Only five Oaks scored in the game, including junior J.D. Hale with eight points and seven points apiece by freshmen Westen Hale and Jesse Slone.
Slone had three field goals and Hale two field goals and 3-of-6 free throws.
J.D. Hale, who had four field goals and three blocked shots, nearly notched a double-double as he pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Baskets by Hale and Slone, followed by a free throw from Westen Hale, set up the pair of threes by Borden.
Manchester, meanwhile, made just 3-of-17 shots in the second period. Dylan Hanson hit a three, Josh Redmon and Jarred Quinlan each scored baskets, and Hanson and Quinlan connected on two free throws apiece.
After outscoring Oak Hill 13-8 in the first period, which included a 9-2 run in the first 3:50, the Greyhounds were reversed 21-11 in the second stanza.
J.D. Hale scored the opening basket of the second, but the Greyhounds scored seven straight, capped off by Hansen’s three at the 4:35 mark.
With Oak Hill leading 35-30 in the third frame, Manchester mustered a 10-2 spree in a matter of two-and-a-half minutes.
A pair of Ondera split free throws made it 37-34, but Kade West scored twice for the Greyhounds sandwiched around a rebound putback by Tim Cooper.
Cooper’s carom and hoop, at exactly the three-minute mark, put Manchester back in front 38-37.
In between those three baskets, the Oaks had missed three straight shots.
“We came in at halftime up five, yet like we did the other night, we just go through another funk,” said Persin. “The beginning of the game we were bad, the beginning of the third quarter we were bad. I told our kids I wish halftime didn’t happen and we could play right through it.”
The Oaks did, though, play through another rough stretch.
A Borden bucket followed by a Hale stickback put Oak Hill ahead 41-40 with a minute-and-a-half to play.
Ondera then made two free throws, and hit Borden for another basket on a run-out. Another Ondera to Borden connection made it 47-40 just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter.
After staking a 40-37 lead with 2:37 to go, the Greyhounds finished the quarter with two straight turnovers and three straight missed shots.
Manchester had tried to hold the ball and milk the clock in the final minute before missing the second of those three.
The Greyhounds then trailed 57-53 with three minutes remaining in the game, following four different three-point deficits.
But a pair of Borden free throws, and another split by Ondera, made it 60-53 with 2:26 remaining.
In between, Redmon rained a three that rimmed in-and-out, and Hale grabbed the rebound to thwart the last best comeback hope for the Greyhounds.
Ondera and Borden then combined for three more free throws, followed by two more from Wes Hale and a final bucket by Slone.
“Once we got the lead, we just made plays,” said Persin. “We got steals and knocked down some free throws. We got our delay game going, we took a lot of time off the clock, the kids were real patient and disciplined and we needed that.”
For the game, the Oaks shot 44-percent (22-of-50), including 45-percent from inside the arc (18-of-40).
The Oaks’ greater benefit, though, was attempting 31 free throws compared to just nine for Manchester. The Greyhounds doubled the Oaks in fouls, 20-10.
While Manchester shot a sizzling 54-percent (22-of-41) from two-point range, they made just 2-of-15 three-point attempts.
Quinlan paced the Greyhounds with 20 points, followed by 11 from Hanson and 10 from Cooper. Quinlan landed the team’s other trey.
West with four field goals for eight points, Dawson Little with two field goals for four points, and Skyler Haislip with one field goal rounded out the Manchester scoring.
West and Quinlan led with six rebounds apiece, while Little led in steals with a team-high four and assists with a game-high six.
Most of the team statistics were nearly even, with the exception of fouls, free-throw attempts and Oak Hill’s 35-27 rebounding advantage.
Manchester wraps up its season at 13-10.
Oak Hill, meanwhile, despite dropping down a division, moves on up to the regional tournament for the second straight season.
I’m really proud of these kids,” said Persin. “We went through a lot of adversity from the beginning of the year to the end. But these kids stuck together and it was an all-team effort. They’ve practiced their butts off all year and I’m really happy for them.”
* * *
Manchester 13 11 16 17 — 57
Oak Hill 8 21 16 22 — 67
MANCHESTER 57 (13-10)
Josh Redmon 1 0-0 2, Skyler Haislip 1 0-0 2, Kade West 4 0-2 8, Dylan Hanson 3 4-4 11, Timothy Cooper 5 0-0 10, Jarred Quinlan 8 3-3 20, Dawson Little 2 0-0 4; TOTALS 24 7-9 57; Three-point field goals: 2 (Dylan Hanson and Jarred Quinlan 1 apiece)
OAK HILL 67 (20-3)
Drew Cannon 0 0-0 0, Jesse Slone 3 1-2 7, Kyle Ondera 5 9-13 20, Westen Hale 2 3-6 7, Ryan Borden 8 6-10 25, J.D. Hale 4 0-0 8, Cody Cannon 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 22 19-31 67; Three-point field goals: 4 (Ryan Borden 3, Kyle Ondera 1)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Manchester 24-56 (.429), 2-point field goals 22-41 (.537), 3-point field goals 2-15 (.133); Oak Hill 22-50 (.440), 2-point field goals 18-40 (.450), 3-point field goals 4-10 (.400); Free throws — Manchester 7-9 (.778), Oak Hill 19-31 (.613); Rebounds — Manchester 27 (Kade West and Jarred Quinlan 6 apiece), Oak Hill 35 (J.D. Hale 10, Kyle Ondera 8); Steals — Manchester 9 (Dawson Little 4), Oak Hill 10 (Kyle Ondera 5); Assists — Manchester 13 (Dawson Little 6), Oak Hill 14 (Kyle Ondera 5); Blocks — Manchester 4 (Jarred Quinlan 3), Oak Hill 3 (J.D. Hale 3); Turnovers — Manchester 13, Oak Hill 12; Team fouls — Manchester 20, Oak Hill 10