Sophomore Jenessa Hasty looks to score at the state championship game
BY SCOTT HUNT – email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — Oak Hill girls basketball coach Todd Law closed his speech during Thursday’s pep session at the high school using a quote from Alabama football coach Nick Saban about a trait of championship teams.
And Saban’s words were a perfect description for Law’s young Golden Eagles even after Oak Hill fell 42-31 to Eastern (Pekin) in the Class 2A championship game.
“One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient,” said Law quoting Saban. “No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity.”
The Golden Eagles proved their coach’s words true again Saturday afternoon. They were resilient in the face of adversity.
Staring at an eight-point deficit to begin the second half, the Golden Eagles turned to another of the traits that earned them a spot in the Class 2A state championship game, defense.
Oak Hill forced three turnovers, held Eastern scoreless for more than five minutes and forged a 22-all tie.
But even resilient teams, strong and talented teams, learn lessons in defeat.
The tie lasted only 14 seconds before Rachel Stewart’s conventional three-point play gave the Musketeers the lead for good.
“The adjustments that we made at halftime, we made a switch in the match with the rover and the five and who they were guarding,” Law said shortly after the game ended. “Just trying to get somebody a little bit quicker down on the baseline to try to stop Stewart’s drives. She was just hurting us so bad on the baseline.”
Stewart, a 5-9 junior guard, wasn’t the only Eastern player to have an impact, but she did the most damage scoring 20 of her team’s 42 points, nine coming in the fourth quarter to help her team maintain at least a four-point advantage throughout the final eight minutes.
Freshman guard Isabell Claywell went 3-for-3 from 3-point range, including the first shot of the fourth quarter that extended Eastern’s lead from three to six at 30-24.
But the Golden Eagles battled, maintaining their intensity until the end.
“We’ve had that all year, and you just don’t see that in a team as young as ours a lot of time,” Law said of his team’s resiliency. A lot of times a when a young team gets down they kind of panic, but this team hasn’t done that all year.”
“They believe that they can win every game they step on the floor and they believe it til the buzzer goes off,” he continued. “That’s a credit to them, a credit to their character. I just couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Ultimately, nine first half errors led to a 12-3 advantage in points of turnovers for Eastern, and a 22-14 lead at halftime. The fourth quarter saw four more Golden Eagles’ errors, but more pronounced was 3-for-13 shooting and were outscored 15-7 in the final eight minutes.
There were smiles through the tears as Oak Hill’s players accepted their runner-up medals, trophy and game ball, just another sign of the character of Oak Hill’s players.
It’s not an easy road to make a state championship game, but the Golden Eagles have the potential for more late February runs, and perhaps different endings in the future.
“I don’t know what else can motivate you more than (the loss),” Law said. “Hopefully they’re pretty passionate about trying to get better. There are definitely things we have to work on and get better at and some of those showed up today. I hope it does motivate them.”