BY WILL NATIONS
CANTON — The Oak Hill Raiders made great strides for its boys’ basketball program this weekend.
Making their first appearance in the MAIS Class-AA North championship game, the Raiders looked to cap a perfect weekend, but the game turned bittersweet for the red-and-white.
Junior Alex Shepard scored a game-high 34 points, and the Leake Rebels defeated Oak Hill, 64-55, Saturday night at Canton Academy.
“We let down defensively too many times,” Oak Hill Head Coach Brian Middleton said. “We are the second team in the north that’s pretty good. At the moment, it hurt, but I am still proud of them.”
Holding a four-point advantage at halftime (32-28), the Rebels turned improved defense into more effective offense in the second half.
“I thought from halftime on, I felt confident about our defense,” Leake Head Coach Phil Sheppard said. “In the first half, I thought we gave up too many assignments and gave up too many offensive rebounds. I thought the second half we settled in defensively … There was not as much pressure on our offense to score every time on the other end.”
During the third quarter, the Rebels claimed a six-point lead after a Chipper Jones two-point make at the 4:19 mark, 38-32. The Rebels grabbed their largest advantage of the game in the fourth quarter after a pair of Shepard free throws with two minutes, nine seconds remaining, 57-44.
“We’ve had great chemistry, and we just played good ball,” Shepard said. “Every time we play Oak Hill now, it seems like it gets tougher and tougher. We bowed up and managed to beat them.”
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