Ranked in the top 10 all-time for coaching wins in Ohio, Oak Hill boys basketball coach Norm Persin has been at it for a while. But his last win – No. 575 – he will remember most.
Ranked in the top 10 all-time for coaching wins in Ohio, Oak Hill boys basketball coach Norm Persin has been at it for a while.
But his last win – No. 575 – he will remember most.
With a 48-43 double-overtime win over Kalida in the Division IV state championship, Persin hoisted the trophy for the first time in his 32-year career. In fact, it was the first time he advanced to the state tournament despite reaching the regional tournament 13 times.
“We were tickled to death that we were able to do what we did,” said Persin. “That was our goal – to try and win a state championship. Finally it has come true.
“It is almost like growing up as a little kid when you wake up on Christmas morning. You know what you want but you’re not sure it is going to be there. But then you see it and your eyes just sparkle.”
Persin played high school basketball for Warren G. Harding and was a sophomore in 1966 when the Panthers were state semifinalists. That was his only taste of the state tournament until this year.
His coaching career includes a previous stint at Oak Hill from 1977-1983. He then moved to Wilmington for two years followed by 21 successful seasons at Chesapeake.
He returned three years ago to a struggling Oak Hill program that won nine games in the previous three seasons.
“When I took over, there was just no energy in the program,” he said. “They hadn’t won at anything and they just didn’t have that fire. I think once they bought in and they started winning some games it just picked up and it kind of carried over from there.
“The kids accepted what we did and started working hard in the summer and did the extra things to win. You could see it in their eyes that there was something special there.”
Oak Hill lost to eventual state runner-up Worthington Christian in last season’s regional final. But Persin knew his Oaks had the pieces in place to get over the hump this season.
“We were one game short last year but we had all of our kids back,” he said. “We told our kids that if they wanted to be special they were going to have to do the extra things and they have had that type of mindset all season.
“We had a feeling we could accomplish what we needed to do. So, there was definitely a gut feeling that this could happen but everything had to go right.”
Oak Hill (25-2) rolled through the regular season winning games by an average of 25 points. It took a 12-of-15 second half shooting effort in the 56-52 regional final win over Newark Catholic to lift Oak Hill to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
Fittingly, Persin was named co-coach of the year in Division IV by the Associated Press the week of the state tournament.
In the state semifinal, Oak Hill shot 52.9 percent to get the 55-46 win over favored Ada.
Kalida and Dick Kortokrax – Ohio’s all-time leader in coaching wins – were up next.
Oak Hill had not played an overtime game all season but needed two to secure the state title.
Kalida led 33-30 late in the fourth quarter. Coming out of a timeout, Persin called a play that set a screen to free up forward Ryan Borden for a three-point bucket from the corner to tie the game and send it into overtime.
In overtime, Kalida clung to a 38-35 lead and with 30 seconds left Persin called the same play to Borden and he sunk an off-balanced shot from beyond the arc to send the game into double overtime.
Oak Hill and Kalida were knotted midway through the second overtime but a costly Wildcats turnover with the Oaks up 43-40 forced by the Oak Hill defense and 6-of-6 from the free throw line down the stretch sealed up the title.
“If you are ever going to win a state championship, that is the type of game you want to win it,” Persin said. “When I replay everything that happened and I can remember some of the regional championship games we lost, we lost those games just like we won (the state championship game). Maybe it was all due process.”
What’s more, Persin and the Oaks won the championship up against a coaching legend in Kortokrax and his 788 career wins.
“It probably makes it even a little more special,” said Persin. “I told (Kortokrax) after the game that it was an honor and a privilege to coach against him. Any time you can beat a legend, it’s got to be something that you cherish forever.”
Coming into the season, the motto for the Oaks team was ‘We Believe!’ But for Persin, he can hardly believe he finally won the state championship that eluded him for so long.
“We’re the No. 1 team in the state of Ohio in (Division IV) and it is just a tremendous feeling,” he said. “When you put 32 years into something like this and you’re rewarded, it just means something that much more.
“I think when I kick back and reflect on everything that has happened it will hit me.”