West locks down on Oaks


OAK HILL — The first meeting, the West Senators simply zoned the Oak Hill Oaks out.

This time, on Tuesday night inside Oak Hill’s “Nuthouse”, the Senators simply locked the Oaks down.

For the second time this season, West’s zone defensive effort didn’t allow Oak Hill to cross, or even hit, the 40-point threshold —and as a result the Senators scored enough points to capture a Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys basketball triumph.

The Senators swept the Oaks with a 43-35 rockfight for a win on Tuesday night in Oak Hill, as West went wire-to-wire with the victory —and the Senators’ 11-point (33-22) lead midway through the third period was their largest of the night.

West scored the opening five points, and Oak Hill got as close as 5-4 from there —as the Oaks’ smallest second-half deficit was finally at three (35-32), with five-and-a-half minutes remaining.

But the Oaks’ only other points occurred exactly five minutes later — on Kade Kinzel’s fourth and final three-pointer, which made it 42-35.

In between Kinzel’s split of free throws, and his long three-ball which made it 35-32, West’s Mitchell Irwin answered inside for an old-fashioned three-point play — and another critical six-point cushion (38-32).

While West did struggle with foul shots, going only 7-of-16 for the entire game, it did mesh 6-of-11 in the final canto — including 4-of-5 by senior Ryan Sissel to make it 41-32, and the icer split by Mason Parker with 19 tics left and the 43-35 final.

The Senators raised their records to 7-10 and 4-8 in the SOC II, as West allowed only 37 points in the two clubs’ first affair on Dec. 16 at The Rock.

The return bout was more snail’s pace than the first, but when West wins games under third-year head coach Caleb McClanahan, it’s usually done with defense.

Case in point on Tuesday night, as the Oaks never managed more than 10 points in any one quarter —and endured five straight fourth-quarter possessions with turnovers, followed by some missed point-blank shots plus outside as well.

Oak Hill had 20 points in the opening half, and only 15 for the entire second 16 minutes —with only Kinzel’s trifecta for its final three markers in the final five-and-a-half.

“I thought our defense was outstanding again tonight. It’s something we pride ourselves on,” said McClanahan. “I believe when we lock in, set down in the half-court and guard 5-on-5, we can be pretty good. Up until Kinzel hit that deep three, we were holding them to 12 points for the second half.”

Kinzel’s game-high 18 points kept the Oaks —now 5-11 and 2-9 — always within striking distance, as he canned four threes, a second-quarter basket that made it 24-16, and 4-of-6 free throws.

But the next closest Oak was with only six points, as Oak Hill had a dozen total field goals —and A.J. Harrison hit the squad’s only other triple to get within 15-9.

“We just weren’t able to score, which was similar to what happened down there (at West). They (Senators) do a really nice job of whatever defense they are in. They stayed more in man-to-man tonight, but they were able to guard us. The chances we got we didn’t capitalize on,” said OHHS head coach Heath McKinniss. “When you are limited on the amount of good looks you get and you don’t capitalize when you need to, this is what happens.”

West, against Oak Hill’s zone, made five three-pointers at The Rock — and opened the first 13 minutes and five seconds with four on Tuesday night.

Irwin with one (5-0 West lead), Jeffery Bishop with another (8-4 West lead), and two from Trevor Fike (15-6 and 24-14 West leads) stretched the Senator advantage out to double digits.

But West was also able to get Irwin or Sissel in the middle of the zone, and they combined for eight buckets between them.

Irwin amassed a team-high 15 points on six field goals and two freebies, while Sissel scored three field goals to supplement his 4-of-5 fourth-quarter free throws towards 10.

Fike finished with eight, Bishop bagged seven, and Mason Parker pitched in three points to round out the Senator scoring.

Irwin —the six-foot and one-inch and four-year football starting quarterback —operated inside the lane, as McClanahan commented that his football-centric Senators are becoming better basketball players.

“I thought Mitchell Irwin played his best game of the year tonight. Just being the quarterback on the floor. Our zone offense is getting better. If you compare it to early film in the year, it’s night and day. Just working with the kids and their ball security and decision-making, those things have to be taught and addressed every day in order for them to be better at it. They are not naturally per se basketball players,” said the coach. “I thought we shot the ball pretty well, and hopefully we’re starting to get in a rhythm and understand what good shots are and how we make shots. Inside-out threes and transition threes are the shots which we can make.”

McKinniss concurred.

“I think that’s a fair comparison. They shot the ball well down there (at West), and shot it well early here (at Oak Hill). They made a nice adjustment putting Irwin in there (high post inside zone), because he is a little better scorer and he took advantage of that,” he said. “We tried to squeeze that with our guards and then bring our post player up when we needed to, but he was just able to make some plays in there.”

The Senators also rebounded the basketball, and seldom Tuesday night turned it over.

But defending and locking down was the primary key on this full four-quarter night —as West secured the SOC II sweep.

“Taking care of the ball, rebounding and playing defense are what wins you tournament games. That’s what we’re emphasizing,” said McClanahan. “Tonight was the first time, probably since we beat Fairland (Dec. 30), that we put an entire four quarters together. We really locked in and focused and played a complete game.”

* * *

West 15 12 8 8 —43

Oak Hill 10 10 8 7— 35

WEST 43 (7-10, 4-8 SOC II)

Jack Jordan 0 0-0 0, Mason Parker 1 1-2 3, Mitchell Irwin 6 2-6 15, Jeffery Bishop 3 0-0 7, Cole Tipton 0 0-2 0, Ryan Sissel 3 4-5 10, Trevor Fike 3 0-1 8; TOTALS 16 7-16 43; Three-point field goals: 4 (Trevor Fike 2, Mitchell Irwin and Jeffery Bishop 1 apiece)

OAK HILL 35 (5-11, 2-9 SOC II)

Garrett McKinniss 0 0-0 0, A.J. Harrison 2 0-0 5, Kade Kinzel 5 4-6 18, Aidan Hall 2 2-4 6, Gavin Howell 0 0-2 0, Reagan Michael 1 0-0 2, Rylan Sams 0 0-0 0, Evan Fisher 2 0-0 4; TOTALS 12 6-12 35; Three-point field goals: 5 (Kade Kinzel 4, A.J. Harrison 1)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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