Boys Basketball Open Season With Win Over Wabash

Posted on December 2, 2019 in Boy's Basketball, Winter Sports

CONVERSE — Memories of the drubbing the Oak Hill boys’ basketball team took against Wabash in March were still fresh Wednesday evening when the two teams met again to begin the 2019-20 season.

The 31-point sectional tournament defeat certainly was a great motivator for the Golden Eagles, and they came out and dictated play from the start to post a 71-62 victory over the visiting Apaches. Tahj Johnson led four teammates in double digits with 23 points.

Wabash, coming off a 21-5 season and first sectional title since 1967, managed just one tie at 2-all and never led in the contest. The Apaches pulled to within 61-58 with under three minutes to play, but poor shooting plagued them throughout and they finished at 33 percent (20-of-60) and 31 percent from 3-point range (8-of-26).

“It’s a pretty gratifying win,” Oak Hill coach Kevin Renbarger said. “Wabash is a good basketball team with a lot of weapons. Minus one kid they are pretty much the same team they had in here last year and beat us by 30 (75-44) in the sectional. We’re talking six months ago.

“It’s a good start especially on the offensive end where we executed pretty well,” Renbarger added, referring to 61 percent shooting (28-of-46).

Working a series of back cuts and give-and-go plays to near perfection, the Eagles pulled away to a 16-9 lead after one quarter and extend their lead to 39-23 at halftime. The Eagles shot 64 percent in the opening half (16-of-25) and nearly every basket was a layup.

“Our guys weren’t there on helpside (defense),” Wabash coach Paul Wright said. “We worked on that from day one, but our help just wasn’t there tonight. That’s something we got to work on and we can fix that in practice, but we got a lot of work to do.”

Johnson, a 6-foot senior, was beneficiary on many of the offensive sets and scored 13 points in the opening half. Seldom staying more than a few feet from the basket, he made 11-of-14 shots, and he also hauled in seven rebounds.

“He’s quite a weapon around the basket and on the open floor,” Renbarger said of Johnson, the lone holdover from the Eagles’ 2018 Class 2A state championship team. “You can tell he’s taking ownership of this basketball team the way he should and I’m proud for him.

“He’s kind of waited his turn for two years,” Renbarger added. “He was kind of a role player and now he can step up and take control of this basketball team.”

Tristen Hayes, a 6-5 junior center, also made his presence felt in the low post and made three crucial baskets in the fourth quarter as Wabash attempted a comeback. Hayes finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, leading the Eagles to a 31-28 advantage on the boards.

Clay McCorkle hit a 3-pointer and was 4-of-4 at the foul line in the fourth quarter and helped the Eagles stave off the Apaches. McCorkle scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half.

“Clay and Tristen, we’re going to go as they go and both of them stepped up the way that they’re capable of playing,” Renbarger said. “We have some work to do defensively, but that’s a hard team to play on opening night.”

Oak Hill maintained a double-digit lead throughout the third quarter and took a 51-40 advantage into the final eight minutes. Wabash had one good run and pulled to within 61-58 after back-to-back 3-pointers from Jasper Walter.

Hayes answered with a close-range basket, missing a free throw that would have completed a three-point play, and then McCorkle effectively applied the dagger with a 3-pointer that made it 66-58 with 1:27 to play.

Wabash was hamstrung once 6-8 center Eijah Vander Velden picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game. Vander Velden played sparingly the rest of the first half and finished with eight points and six rebounds.

“He’s a big part of what we want to do and him getting in foul trouble is something that we can’t have happen,” Wright said. “We had to protect him as long as we could and they took advantage of that.”

Trenton Daughtry, Wabash’s top scorer, had an off-shooting night and hit just 4-of-12 from behind the 3-point arc to finish with 17 points. Walter contributed 13 points and Dereck Vogel 12.

“We knew we were going to get (Oak Hill’s) best shot,” Wright said. “… All credit to Oak Hill, they came out and drilled us We deserved what we got we got and need to learn from this because we’ve got games Saturday (against Madison-Grant).

“But they didn’t do anything that we didn’t expect,” he added. “They come out and play hard — they always do.”

Kody Dubois was another spark for Oak Hill with four 3-pointers for 12 points. Coming into the game, Renbarger wasn’t sure what to expect from the offensive sets that were installed over the summer.

“We revamped our offense to fit some of our personnel and it’s a total overhaul,” Renbarger said. “The kids caught on to it pretty quick over the summer, but it’s been a struggle in the preseason. I would not have bet any money at all last night in practice that we would put 71 points on the board.”

Prior to the game, Oak Hill recognized the Class 2A state champion girls’ basketball team and state diving champ Caiden Lake and unveiled banners on the gym wall.

Oak Hill plays Saturday at Manchester as part of a boy-girl doubleheader.

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