They say games are won or lost at the free-throw line. Friday night, in arguably the biggest game of the season to determine early supremacy in the district, Oak Hill proved why they have won the last two district titles. They were clutch.
The Lady Raiders went 10-for-12 at the line in the final three minutes to hold off No.1 ranked Leake Academy 61-57.
The Raiders, looking for their third straight victory for the second time this season, followed with a win of their own, holding down the Rebels 74-68.
Leake, who had only lost one game all season to Jackson Academy, had a huge crowd in their corner and were looking for the upset on the road. Oak Hill (12-4, 3-0), who went to the wire with Kirk on their home floor earlier this season, stepped up when they needed to.
How did they do it?
“The difference was being able to hold our composure against the press,” head coach Stan Hughey said. “And defense. Leake scores 60-70 a night and we held them to 57. That’s great defense against Leake.”
Maegen Ellis knocked down a three-pointer to give the Lady Raiders a 44-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter setting up a nail biter.
Down by three with less than three minutes left to play, the Lady Raiders went 8-for-8 at the charity stripe to grab a 58-53 lead.
Leake, who had three players foul out in the second half, still kept firing at the basket and cut the lead to within two with 32-seconds left to play. Ellis and Shay Atkins each knocked down one more at the line, enough to hold on to the victory as time expired.
No team really had the upper hand early in the ball game as the game was tied after 15 after one. The shoot out continued in the second , with the teams only separated by a point at the break, 28-27 Leake.
Hughey said a big help was how they were able to cut out the crowd noise.
“They brought everyone in Madden” he said. “We just found some energy. They were hurting us on the boards, we couldn’t get them blocked out but we kept making plays.”
Ellis finished with a team-high 21-points and one of four girls to finish in double digits. Tori Ellis knocked down 14 while Rachel Herndon and Atkins each had 10-points apiece.
Leake’s Hannah Peoples finished with a game-high 24-points.
Boys: Oak Hill 74-68 Leake
The Raiders (8-6) still had a little bit of a bad taste in their mouth after their first district loss to Immanuel. Friday’s win was a little sweeter as they picked up their third win in a row and moved to 2-1 in 2AA play.
“We wanted it, we wanted it,” head coach Brian Middleton said after the game. “I’m proud of these guys. And we did it without two of our starters in the last few minutes. We’re on a roll now, they’re putting it together.”
Leake had control of the game early on, leading by as many as nine points in the second half.
Twice, the Raiders had cut the lead to two but by the break, it was the Rebels who had an eight point advantage on the road.
Oak Hill got a fast start in the third quarter, going on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to three with 5:20 left to go and a layup by AJ Jones made it a one point game once again. Still the Raiders couldn’t get over that hump.
With 4:36 to play in the ball game, Reid Posey knocked down two free-throws to kick start a 13-0 run as the Raiders finally jumped in the drivers seat and grabbed a 70-64 lead with less than two minutes remaining.
The Rebels, 9-4, clawed their way back and made it a one possession ball game only to lose it at the free-throw line.
Jones finished with a game-high 30-points including three 3-pointers and Posey had 21-points with a trio from downtown.
The junior high boys made it 14-0 this season after 58-29 win led by a 14-point effort from Riley Pierce and 13-points from Drew Riley.
The junior high girls lost a heart breaker, 53-48 despite 12-points from Sarah Dill.
A complete recap from Saturday’s district game with Manchester will be in the Tuesday edition of the Daily Times Leader.