WHEELERSBURG – For the first sixteen minutes of play, it appeared as if the state’s second ranked team was in a whole heap of trouble.
Wheelersburg (13-0, 8-0 SOC II) trailed Oak Hill 20-17 entering the halftime break as the Oaks forced their hand on the defensive end to settle for shots.
But that wouldn’t last long coming out of halftime as the Pirates outscored Oak Hill 30-17 in the second half to beat the Oaks 47-37 and earn yet another SOC II win in their march to a potential league title.
“I’m proud of our kids, that certainly wasn’t the first half we wanted,” said Pirates head coach Steven Ater following the win on Friday night. “I thought defensively, we were much better than we had been in a while. Give our kids a lot of credit, we had two really good practices leading up to this game, focusing on some of those areas. Offensively, give Oak Hill credit. They were solid defensively and I thought we were a little bit undisciplined with some of our things on that end. They hit some shots early and we didn’t and so we started forcing some things thinking that would get us going.”
Entering halftime, Wheelersburg trailed by the same number of points that Tanner Holden and J.J. Truitt combined for through the first sixteen minutes: three.
That story completely flipped once both teams came back out on the court.
Holden and Truitt combined for 24 of the Pirates 30 second half points, including a 7-0 run to start the second half that really got things into gear for Wheelersburg.
“They were great,” said Ater. “Give a lot of our guys credit: I thought Dustin Darnell played great for us, I thought Carter McCorkle played great off the bench for us and scored a basket. Trent Salyers was better defensively for us, got some good steals and played really tough. Those guys, they know Tanner and J.J. need to get going, but they’re also key parts for us offensively. The little things they do for us are huge.”
Ater mentioned Darnell’s efforts, and those efforts really got the Wheelersburg offense into gear to start the game.
After both teams struggled in different ways on the offensive end to start the game, it was Darnell’s own 5-0 run thanks to a corner three and a transition layup that was all started with a steal of his own that helped Wheelersburg when they trailed 4-2 in the early goings.
“We’ve got a lot of guys, and it’s hard because we want to play them all, we love them,” said Ater. “We have six four year seniors, and they’ve all played crucial roles for us in big games. We keep telling them to be ready when called upon. It might not be as consistent as you want, it’s always a situational thing, but man he stepped up big when we needed it there in the first quarter. He didn’t even get in last game. For him to start tonight, hit a three, it was a big confidence booster for him and I’m glad to see it.”
After Friday’s win over the Oaks, Wheelersburg continues on their pace of an undefeated regular season at 13-0 overall, and 8-0 in SOC II play with a two game lead in conference over Waverly, and a three game lead in conference over Oak Hill.
But for Ater, he wants to make sure that his team continues taking this season, even as it winds down, one game at a time.
“We keep ourselves in position to fend off anybody who is trying to knock us off. We talked about it before the game: Oak Hill’s won the league two years in a row and they’re still champs till someone takes it from them, and we still have to do the taking. There’s still a lot of good games left, we’re getting everybody’s best shot, and rightfully so. Everybody’s playing their best basketball and it shows you the depth of our league that there won’t be easy games night in and night out. We’ll be back to getting ready for Tuesday night, league play next Friday night, and just keep checking off each of those boxes that help us get closer to our goals.”
Wheelersburg: 11-6-18-12 – 47
Oak Hill: 8-12-10-7 – 37
Wheelersburg: 15 FG, 5 3PT (Salyers, Darnell, Holden, Mullins, Truitt 1), 12/16 FT. Scoring: Holden 19, Salyers 8, Truitt 8, Darnell 5, Mullins 3, Miller 2, McCorkle 2
Oak Hill: 16 FG, 1 3PT (Darby 1), 4/6 FT. Scoring: Hammond 16, Darby 15, Hanning 4, Donley 2
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT