It wasn’t pretty, but Brian Middleton’s young Raiders got the win.
In a sloppy defensive Thursday night battle, Oak Hill brushed off their shoulders and surmounted their errors to reach a 2-0 mark to start the new hoops season.
In a low scoring 48-40 victory, Oak Hill was the beneficiary of double digit performances by J.J. Bridges and John Wesley Williamson. Bridges and Williamson scored 15 and 10 points, respectively, while grabbing five rebounds a piece.
The tone of the game was established early by a 10-9 first quarter. Kirk set up in zone defense early to slow the tempo down in their favor and to counter the athleticism of the Raiders’ post players. Senior center Jacob Dickens responded to this with a smooth mid-range jumper to put Oak Hill on the scoreboard first. However, from that point the game was sloppy for both sides for the majority of the night. Neither the Raiders nor Kirk were allowing their opponents any easy buckets. Both teams forced turnovers and committed careless ones in the first period, but neither could capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes to pull away early.
The second quarter was an entirely different story for the Raiders compared to the game as a whole. After managing only nine points in the first quarter, the team exploded for 23 points in the second period, shooting 60 percent from the field. The Raiders moved the ball excellently and balanced out the offensive attack. Offensive rebounding created open shots for guards Drew Riley and Riley Pierce, which in turn opened up the inside for J.J. Bridges to drive to the basket to finish or dish to his teammates on the block. Kirk had no answer for the Raiders offensively either, scoring only seven points in the entire quarter as Oak Hill turned up the defensive pressure on their way to a 32-17 halftime lead.
To open up the second half, Oak Hill looked to be on their way to another balanced quarter of basketball as Bridges scored on a smooth hop-step layup on an isolation play. However, only two outside shots were attempted the whole quarter, and Kirk was able to focus all of its efforts in the paint.
The Raiders were grabbing their own misses left and right, but they simply could not put the ball in the hoop as Kirk defenders swarmed to the ball. After Bridges hit a floater in the paint, Kirk went on a 12-0 run to close the gap to seven points before Drake Riley scored in the final seconds of the quarter.
As is said, free throws win games. After a horrendous free throw shooting performance thus far, all 10 of the Raiders’ fourth quarter points came from the charity stripe. Oak Hill began the period with three straight turnovers. Fortunately for the Raiders, Kirk could not convert any into points. Riley Pierce stretched the lead back out to 11 with a pair of free throws, to which Kirk answered with a pair of their own. Turnovers on both sides kept either team from getting into a rhythm. The only sequence of any kind was a 4-0 run by Kirk before Jacob Dickens and Riley Pierce countered their opponent’s advances with two free throws each. Kirk’s one final surge was shut down by a pair of freebies by Drew Riley.
After the game, Coach Brian Middleton said, “A win is a win. I’m just glad to get out of here with a 2-0 record. We were rusty, but we had some guys come up big down the stretch.”
Riley Pierce and Drew Riley racked up seven points each, while Jacob Dickens, Matthew Gwathney, and Drake Riley finished with four, three and two points, respectively. The Raiders will be back in action Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against Heritage Academy.