OAK HILL — The Notre Dame Titans took Tuesday night’s non-league tilt at Oak Hill on indeed short notice.
But, their victory —against a larger school both in conference and division —should go a long way in the right direction for the Titans’ second half the season.
That’s because Notre Dame took a late first-quarter lead, extended its advantage to as large as 49-36 halfway through the final quarter, and truly hung on at the end to capture a 58-52 triumph inside the socially-distant Oak Hill “Nuthouse”.
With the win, the Titans raised their record to 8-3, while the young yet improving Oaks fell to 2-10.
Tuesday’s contest came about as the result of Oak Hill —after moving up its Minford matchup from that date —being idle, and the Titans needing an opponent after Ironton St. Joseph was forced into a coronavirus quarantine on Monday.
The Titans took on the challenge against the Oaks — a member of the bigger Southern Ohio Conference Division II and Division III tournament team.
Notre Dame, following five first-quarter lead changes, seized a 13-11 advantage with a minute remaining on the first of Jermaine Powell’s two three-point goals.
The Titans never trailed again, and even opened up a 13-point cushion (49-36) with only four minutes and 48 seconds to play.
However, Notre Dame did begin to face the Oaks’ full-court pressure defense, and Oak Hill hit some second-half shots —all while the Titans totaled up missed free throws and cracked the door enough for the Oaks to enter back in.
In fact, with 48 seconds showing, the Oaks’ Aidan Hall hit two free throws for a 53-52 deficit, which was the hosts’ smallest since the 13-11 score clear back in the opening stanza.
But after opening the final frame just 2-of-8 from the stripe, the Titans didn’t miss in the double-bonus situation over the final 31 seconds —meshing their final five for 7-of-13 for the entire quarter, and more importantly for the 58-52 final.
Notre Dame coach Matt Mader said it would have been easy to enjoy a night off, but building the Titans’ tournament resume was of greater importance to his club.
The Titans are a member of the smaller-school SOC I, and one of their three losses was the season opener against South Webster from the bigger division.
“It was a tough battle and we knew it was going to be a physical game. Anytime you play a team in the upper conference (SOC II), you know the physicality and what they bring. For our guys to have half-a-day’s notice to come up here and be mentally prepared and ready to play, we put together a pretty nice game early and through three-and-a-half quarters,” said Mader. “We wanted to come in and see how we matched up, and our guys came in and competed and did a pretty nice job there at the very end. We’re definitely happy.”
As the Oaks fired away and splashed 10 three-pointers, they chipped away at Notre Dame’s lead with 4-of-8 fourth-quarter free throws as well, while the Titans —beginning with the 3:11 mark of the fourth — missed six of their first eight freebies.
They got a split from Caleb Nichols with 31 seconds left for a 54-52 edge, and forced a turnover when Oak Hill was whistled for traveling just six seconds later.
Powell then swished a pair of tosses with 18.6 seconds showing, and Carter Campbell converted a pair with 10 tics left, sandwiched around the Oaks missing a corner-pocket three-pointer AND a rebound putback —and Campbell coming up with the key rebound.
It was the final of 32 boards by the Titans, as Dylan Seison secured 14 of them —in addition to his game-high 17 points on eight field goals and one free throw for a second-quarter old-fashioned three-point play.
Seison shot 8-of-11 from the field — all of them in two-point range.
“Dylan is our glue guy that can play all five spots for us. He knows exactly what everybody is supposed to be doing and just keeps getting better and better as a sophomore. He had to do some scoring and rebounding tonight,” said Mader. “He is beyond his years as far as his mental preparation and what he brings to us.”
The Titans shot 22-of-46 for 47-percent, including 18-of-35 for 51-percent from inside the arc.
Powell posted 13 points on four field goals and 3-of-4 foul shots, as Notre Dame did overcome a 10-of-21 performance from the foul line.
In addition, most of the Titans’ 11 turnovers occurred late against the Oaks’ full-court pressure.
“We didn’t take the best care of the ball down the stretch, or hit some free throws, and 10-of-21 is not going to win a lot of ballgames,” said Mader.
Of the Titans’ four threes, three came through the first three cantos —including Nichols’ first-half buzzer-beating three-pointer off a dish-back pass by Powell.
That made it 32-25, after the Titans took an 18-14 first-stop advantage — and later eight consecutive fourth-quarter points for the 49-36 bulge.
“It wasn’t something we drew up, but JP (Powell) made a nice read and kick back to Caleb, and that was a tough shot that he made to give us some momentum going into the half,” said Mader.
Nichols notched eight points and Ethan Kammer seven, as both popped a trey.
From the final 48 seconds of the first salvo to the first minute and 10 seconds of the fourth, Notre Dame maintained anywhere from a four-to-10-point lead.
Johnathan Strickland — after his 32-point, seven-triple eruption against Symmes Valley — scored five, as Campbell added a field goal for four points.
Hall had a game-high 18 points on seven field goals and 3-of-6 free throws to pace the Oaks, as Landon Hines added 11 to also reach double figures.
Hines hit a pair of first-half trifectas, as Gavin Howell had three for nine points and Johnnie Mullett a pair for six.
Hall, Braylon Howell and Garred Stiltner made one apiece, but according to Oak Hill head coach Heath McKinniss, living behind the line served as a double-edged sword.
“We missed too many (three-point attempts), and a lot of them were probably quick shots that we didn’t need at the time. We made some when we needed to get back in it, including a couple in the fourth. But we still shot too many quick threes a lot of times,” said McKinniss. “We talk about valuing possessions and valuing the ball and getting the best shots that we can. And we weren’t really getting the best shots we needed to until late.”
The Oaks also missed many short-range looks, but did battle back from being down double digits in the final quarter.
“We just didn’t finish inside tonight. They didn’t have a lot of size, but we get in a hurry. When you’re trying to win games and you’re not used to winning, sometimes things get sped up,” continued McKinniss. “We just have to find a way to make those shots go in and win one of these close ones. You gain confidence from that, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Perhaps the Oaks can get closer with a pair of SOC II road shows on Friday and Saturday night —at Eastern and at Northwest respectively.
Notre Dame’s next game is part of its original schedule —against visiting East on Friday night in the SOC I.
“This was a good win for us up here tonight, and we’ve got some things to work on starting again tomorrow,” said Mader.
* * *
Notre Dame 18 14 9 17 — 58
Oak Hill 14 11 9 18— 52
NOTRE DAME 58 (8-3)
Carter Campbell 1 2-2 4, Jermaine Powell 4 4-4 13, Caleb Nichols 3 1-6 8, Dominic Sparks 0 2-2 2, Jackson Clark 1 0-1 2, Dylan Seison 8 1-4 17, Johnathan Strickland 2 1-2 5, Ethan Kammer 3 0-0 7; TOTALS 22 10-21 58; Three-point field goals: 4 (Jermaine Powell 2, Caleb Nichols and Ethan Kammer 1 apiece)
OAK HILL 52 (2-10)
Brock Harden 0 1-2 1, Landon Hines 4 1-2 11, Aidan Hall 7 3-6 18, Johnnie Mullett 2 0-0 6, Braylon Howell 1 1-2 4, Garred Stiltner 1 0-0 3, Gavin Howell 3 0-0 9; TOTALS 18 6-12 52; Three-point field goals: 10 (Gavin Howell 3, Landon Hines and Johnnie Mullett 2 apiece, Aidan Hall, Braylon Howell and Garred Stiltner 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