OAK HILL — The Minford Falcons needed to have a fast-paced, fire from three-point land, track-meet style of game going on Tuesday night at Oak Hill.
What they got against the host Oaks instead was a slowed-down, half-court heavy, tortoise-taking-the-hare brand of basketball —which Oak Hill, under legendary head coach Norm Persin, is known for.
As a result, with Oak Hill outscoring Minford 17-9 in the fourth quarter — and the Oaks blitzing the Falcons for a back-breaking 11 unanswered second-half points — Oak Hill held off Minford 52-45 in a key Southern Ohio Conference Division II clash.
The Falcons fell behind by as much as 10 points at 26-16, but sliced the deficit in half by halftime —and doubled up the Oaks in the third quarter 15-7 to take as much as a four-point advantage at 36-32 with a minute and 18 seconds remaining.
But Minford still never sped the Oaks up, and in fact —as it turned out —never even got to at least 50 points.
The Falcons failed to score again until three minutes and 40 seconds remained, but by then, the Oaks had gone on an 11-0 run over a span of four minutes and 50 seconds.
Oak Hill held a 43-36 lead with 4:07 to play, and converted 7-of-9 free throws in the final 1:45.
With the victory, the Oaks — the fifth-ranked team in the third weekly Associated Press Ohio High School boys basketball Division III poll — improved to 14-2, and remained tied atop the SOC II standings at 9-1 with Waverly (9-1 SOC II) and Wheelersburg (8-1 SOC II).
Oak Hill, after hosting Eastern on Friday night, has its return bouts with both next week —including at Wheelersburg, which handed it its only league loss by three points (50-47).
The Oaks, after Adam Crank’s corner-pocket three-pointer for the Falcons made it 36-32, appeared on the brink on Tuesday.
And Persin, in reportedly his final season of coaching as he is third all-time on the state’s coaching career wins list with now 762 triumphs, knew it too.
“Minford is really, really good. Everybody on their team you have to be aware of. They can all shoot the ball and score. Kids off the bench are very capable. We knew it was going to be a tough game. But we also know if we are to win the league, we have to take care of business at home,” he said. “Chase (Hammond) is going to get his (points and rebounds), but we have to have other kids step up. Noah Donley gets nine points for us in the first half, Landon Hines has the big game in the second half, and we hit our free throws down the stretch. It’s a quality win for us over a quality team.”
For the Falcons, they fell victim to an Oak Hill sweep — as they lost 55-49 in overtime in only the second SOC II tilt for both back on Dec. 10.
They also fell prey, Minford coach Josh Shoemaker said, to “an Oak Hill-style” affair —that being a low-scoring, slower-moving, Oaks operating an open-post Persin-directed offense in which they hold the ball and run the clock.
That attack limits the opposition’s possessions, forces them to play defense for minutes at a time, and often times ends up as Chase Hammond baskets.
On at least two occasions on Tuesday, Oak Hill held the basketball on the Falcons for at least two minutes.
Shoemaker said simply that Minford made not enough shots, especially from three-point range, as it was only 6-of-20 from beyond the arc.
“I thought we would have to score more than 45 points to win tonight. We didn’t want it to be an ‘Oak Hill’ game, so we had to push the tempo, but to do that you have to make shots and put the pressure on them. Unfortunately, we came up on the short end. I thought we had some good looks tonight, but we were 6-of-20 from the three-point line. You have to knock them down to beat them,” he said. “It seemed like every time we got a (defensive) stop, it would be Hammond on an offensive rebound or we didn’t make a shot on the other end. It’s never easy to play from behind, but Oak Hill has to be the toughest team you can play from behind. You can’t speed them up. You try to speed them up and trap them, but it’s what they do, it’s their gameplan, it’s why the execute it so well.”
Hammond, the Oaks’ standout six-foot, four-inch senior center, had 18 points on six total field goals and 5-of-8 free throws —and battled double and even triple-teams to get his points along with 13 rebounds.
With the Oaks trailing 36-35 following the third quarter, Hammond had five consecutive points over two straight possessions to open the fourth period — converting a pair of rebound putbacks including the first for an old-fashioned three-point play to give Oak Hill the lead with 7:12 remaining.
But Hammond had plenty of help, including from Drew Hanning, who paced all scorers with 19 points on five field goals and 9-of-10 free throws.
Hanning had a pair of fourth-quarter baskets for a pair of six-point leads at 42-36 and 45-39, and split a pair of free throws for the 43-36 advantage —as he proceeded to make his final six freebies for leads of 47-39, 49-41 and finally 51-45.
In all, the Oaks —with the Falcons forced to foul late — attempted 20 free throws, meshing 15 tosses compared to Minford making five on only eight tries.
And, as Shoemaker said, on two of those misses with 58 seconds left in the third frame, was where the game turned.
Crank canned his three-ball by coming in off the bench, but it gave Minford its largest margin at 36-32.
Persin then called a timeout, but Oak Hill had an empty possession immediately following — and the Falcons found themselves at the free-throw line.
But they missed both, and Oak Hill role player Landon Hines —who had just entered the game for the first time —hit a three off the wing with 30 seconds to play in the quarter.
That jump-started the aforementioned 11 unanswered points, as Minford’s Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis landed a trey to stop the spree at the 3:40 mark for a 43-39 deficit.
“I thought we did a good job on Hammond in the first half, but I thought we missed some open looks. In the third quarter, we were able to push the issue and get some stops and hit some shots. But then I thought the turning point of the game was we were up 36-32, we’re at the line with the lead, we miss two foul shots and they go on an 11-0 run,” said Shoemaker. “That broke our backs.”
The back-breaker, or even heart-breaker for the Falcons, had to be Oak Hill’s Hines.
In addition to his tide-turning three-pointer, the 5-9 junior split a pair of foul shots with 10.6 seconds showing for the Oaks’ 52nd and final point.
But he played the entire fourth quarter, and often times was smack dab in the middle of loose balls on the floor — or in the right spot for the biggest two rebounds of the game.
With Minford trailing 49-45, Hammond missed a one-and-one free throw with 48 seconds remaining — but Trenton Zimmerman and McCormick missed triple tries for the Falcons on the next possession, and Hines had both boards.
After McCormick’s miss, Hines found Hanning with the pass, and the Falcons fouled him with 25 tics to go — where he made both of the now double-bonus foul shots.
Persin said Hines had a game to remember.
“Landon (Hines) was the key to the second half,” said the coach. “We put him in and he hits a three to get us going. In the fourth quarter, I don’t know how many loose balls and rebounds he got to. He was all over the place and he has that type of electricity and energy. I told him I didn’t know what he ate for lunch or whatever today, but he needs to eat that everyday. He brought that spark that we needed and it was huge for us.”
While Hines made the difference in the second half, it was senior Noah Donley’s difference-making in the first.
Not known as a scorer, Donley dropped in nine first-half points as part of Oak Hill’s 26, including a three-pointer at the 2:38 mark of the opening quarter that broke a 7-7 tie —and gave Oak Hill the lead for the next 15 minutes.
Hammond hit a three in the second stanza for a 17-11 Oak Hill advantage, as both of Donley’s second-quarter field goals gave the Oaks their largest leads of the first half (at 19-11 and 26-16).
Both clubs shot 44-percent on 17 made field goals (Minford 17-of-38 and Oak Hill 17-of-44), but the Falcons found the range from deep only six times on 20 attempts for 30-percent.
Vogelsong-Lewis led Minford with 16 points —on five deuces and a pair of second-half threes.
Zimmerman netted nine points on two second-quarter trifectas and four third-period points, while McCormick —on three field goals and 2-0f-2 fourth-quarter free throws —added eight.
Zimmerman also paced the Falcons in rebounding with six, as Oak Hill outrebounded Minford by a hefty tally of 28-16.
Indeed, the track meet Minford wanted on Tuesday turned into another Persin-painted Oak Hill masterpiece.
The Falcons fell to 9-5, and 6-4 in the league, and host South Webster on Friday night —as Shoemaker said it’s time for another bounce-back.
“We have to come back focused. It’s Homecoming night, so we have plenty of reasons to stay focused with everything going on,” he said. “The pressure is on us to come out and come back from this loss.”
* * *
Minford 7 14 15 9 — 45
Oak Hill 12 14 9 17 — 52
MINFORD 45 (9-5, 6-4 SOC II)
Hunter Davis 0 2-2 2, Trenton Zimmerman 3 1-2 9, Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 7 0-0 16, Skyler Knore 1 0-2 3, Nathan McCormick 3 2-2 8, Matthew Risner 2 0-0 4, Adam Crank 1 0-0 3; TOTALS 17 5-8 45; Three-point goals: 6 (Trenton Zimmerman and Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 2 apiece, Skyler Knore and Adam Crank 1 apiece)
OAK HILL 52 (14-2, 9-1 SOC II)
Keaton Potter 1 0-0 2, Drew Hanning 5 9-10 19, Luke Stewart 0 0-0 0, Noah Donley 4 0-0 9, Landon Hines 1 1-2 4, Chase Hammond 6 5-8 18, Braylon Howell 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 17 15-20 52; Three-point goals: 3 (Noah Donley, Landon Hines and Chase Hammond 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved