Oak Hill won its first state championship in school history Saturday with a 48-43 win over Kalida in the Division IV title game but needed double overtime to do it.
The Oaks relied on tough defense and clutch shooting down the stretch to claim the title.
COLUMBUS – The Oak Hill boys basketball team’s motto this season was ‘We Believe!’
And you better believe the Oaks lifted the Division IV state championship trophy for the first time in school history Saturday.
But the championship didn’t come easy.
The Oaks had to get past Kalida 48-43 in double overtime at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center in front of 13,582 fans before being crowned state champions.
“I am on cloud nine,” Oak Hill head coach Norm Persin said. “Getting here was the big thing but I told our kids the whole time to act cordial and play exciting. That is how we have done it all week. They were focused the whole time.
“I think we were a little antsy this morning and were a little nervous but the way they played they just hung right in there.
“I just feel so great for our players. They battled (today).”
Kalida led 33-30 late in the fourth quarter. Coming out of a timeout, Oak Hill set a screen freeing up forward Ryan Borden for a three-point bucket from the corner to tie the game and send it into overtime.
“Ryan is the type of kid that when he gets into a rhythm he can make shots,” Persin said.
In overtime, Kalida clung to a 38-35 lead but with 30 seconds left Oak Hill ran the same play to Borden and he sunk an off-balanced shot from beyond the arc sending the game into double overtime.
“I didn’t have a very good look,” said Borden. “When I caught the ball, I got bumped a little and that made my feet get out from under me. I kind of shot it falling down but I got the shot off in the end.”
Oak Hill and Kalida were knotted midway through the second overtime but a costly Wildcats turnover with Oak Hill up 43-40 forced by the Oak’s defense down the stretch sealed up the state championship.
“We switched defenses on (Kalida) and they didn’t exactly know what we were doing in there,” Persin said of the turnover. “To win this thing, you need a break and that was our break. You need a play like that to win a state championship. We didn’t catch a break early but we got the one that we needed.”
Borden and sophomore guard Westen Hale each netted 13 points pacing the Oaks (25-2) on the offensive end. Center J.D. Hale added eight before fouling out in the second overtime.
Borden was 3-of-7 from three-point range as Oak Hill shot 46.7 percent from beyond the arc.
“Oak Hill won this game because of the very fine three-point shooting that they had. That was the difference in the game,” Kalida head coach Dick Kortokrax said.
Oak Hill’s second leading scorer Kyle Ondera was held to just six points but had 10 rebounds in the winning effort.
Junior center Jordan Bassinger led Kalida (23-5) with 19 points and five rebounds. Senior Scott Schnipke had nine points and seven rebounds.
“I was very proud to be a part of the basketball game that was just witnessed,” Kortokrax said. “Naturally, it would have been a lot better for us if we could have won the game because it was such a tremendous game. When you lose those kinds of games, it hurts even more than if you lose in regulation.”
For Kortokrax, who is Ohio’s all-time leader in coaching wins, the title game loss marks the end of his 34-year tenure at Kalida. He is in the final year of his contract with the school and the board has not renewed it yet.
“It could very well be my last game coaching in high school. I am just absolutely proud of the fact that if it has to be my last game – what a place to lose,” he said. “I have been blessed to have a long career.
“Because of the success I enjoyed this year, if they don’t want to hire me back at Kalida, I am going to hang it up. If you are going to lose, right here is where you are going to do it.”
Between Person and Kortokrax, the title game match up featured 1,263 coaching wins. Kortokrax has 788 and Persin has 575, respectively.
For Persin, it was his first trip to the state tournament after 13 career regional tournament appearances.
And he can hardly believe it.
“We’re the number one team in the state of Ohio in (Division IV) and it is just a tremendous feeling,” he said.