The close ones always sting the most. In a huge weekend for Oak Hill, the Raiders were unable to secure two big games against Canton Academy on the road and Leake Academy at home with their chances of a number 1 seed in the conference tournament diminished. However, Oak Hill proved to the Panthers and Rebels both that they would not go down without a fight, and by the time the tournament rolls around, this young Raiders squad will have a legitimate shot at taking home the blue trophy.
Friday night the Raiders rolled into Canton with a winning mentality. After a loss to Marshall six days earlier, the young team was revamped after a great week of practice, very well prepared for the Panther’s personnel. From the tip-off, both teams set the tone early with physical play and intense half court defense. Neither the Raiders nor the Panthers could break away from their opponent; both teams never led by more than six points. However, a gutsy 45-43 loss in overtime resulted in heartbreak for Oak Hill, who seemed to have the game in control with a few minutes left in regulation.
However, the Raiders failed to put the game away with their opportunities at the charity stripe, shooting an anemic 7-20 from the line. Trailing by one with four seconds left, Jeb converted on one of two free-throws to send the game into overtime. With foul totals taking their toll, the Raiders failed to stop Canton from scoring a few baskets under the goal. With time expiring, Curt Huffman’s prayer from half-court rimmed out to give the Panthers the key win.
John Wesley Williamson led the Raiders with 12 points, followed by Drew Riley and Jeb Stevens with nine and seven points, respectively. Riley Pierce, Drake Riley, and Matthew Gwathney added four a piece. Riley and Gwathney also grabbed 13 and seven boards, respectively. Curt Huffman had one three pointer on the night, and Jacob Dickens added two points to wrap up the scoring. J.J. Bridges and Conner Baird were missing in action due to an injury and an illness.
Saturday was a completely different type of game for the emotional Raiders, who were looking to avenge not only their previous loss, but also an earlier loss to Leake back in December. Oak Hill matched Leake’s run-and-gun tempo, resulting in quite the scoring show for both teams. The Raiders failed to contain sophomore sensation Alex Shepard, who dropped 36 on the night. A dry stretch in the final two minutes put Oak Hill out of the game to give Leake the 77-68 victory.
Freshman Drew Riley led the charge for the Raiders with 20 points, including four treys. Jeb Stevens had an impressive double-double with 12 points and 12 boards. John Wesley Williamson, Curt Huffman, and Riley Pierce finished with 11, 10, and nine points, respectively, in one of the most balanced scoring nights of the season. Dakota O’Bryant added two points off the bench, while Matthew Gwathney and Drake Riley added one point each.
The Raiders now sit at 3-3 in conference play and 12-9 overall on the season and will be looking for a big comeback week to recover from the 3 game skid starting with Winston Academy tonight at 7 p.m. here in West Point.