Golden Eagles Win Semi-State

Posted on March 18, 2018 in Boy's Basketball, Winter Sports

Senior Spencer Ballinger looks to score in semi state action.

By CHUCK LANDIS – clandis@chronicle-tribune.com
HUNTINGTON — With the game hanging in the balance the Oak Hill boys’ basketball team never wilted Saturday evening, and that cool under fire resulted in a trip to the state finals.

The Golden Eagles pulled off a hard-faught 70-64 victory over Westview in the Class 2A northern semistate at Huntington North High School and have just one more step to the championship. Caleb Middlesworth led four players in double figures with 20 points and Spencer Ballinger had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

No. 6-ranked Oak Hill (25-5) knocked out No. 2 Westview, which finished 28-2, and moves on to play unranked Forest Park (26-4) at approximately 12:45 p.m. Saturday for the 2A title in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis. Forest Park defeated Indianapolis Scecina 58-47 for the southern semistate title.

Oak Hill advances to the state finals for the first time. The girls’ basketball team has reached the final three times, and the 1982 football team won a Class A state title.

“It’s crazy because the last couple years it’s been all we’ve been talking about,” Eagles point guard Tyce Frank said. “We put in a bunch of work, and the work has paid off. It feels amazing.”:

After trailing 17-14 after the first quarter, the Eagles would take a 24-22 lead on two Ballinger free throws with 3:13 left in the second quarter and never surrender it. Yet, they could never afford to relax and was ahead only 30-28 at halftime and 48-42 at the end of three quarters.

Opening the second half with a 13-3 run, the Eagles were in front 43-31 and might have stretched it even farther except David Arens was charged with an offensive foul as he drove for a layup. Westview’s Charlie Yoder then drained a pair of 3-pointers and reserve Dennis Wingerd made another and the Eagles lost their big lead.

It remained a tight game at 62-58 when Ballinger picked up a loose ball at midcourt and had a breakaway layup opportunity. Ballinger dunked the ball, making it 64-58 with 1:20 to play and provide enough cushion for the Eagles to hold on down the stretch.

“It was all Tyce,” Ballinger said. “He tapped it to me and I got it and threw it for two points. That wasn’t my first one (dunk), but it definitely gave us momentum.”

For his part, Frank was at the right spot to force a turnover on a Westview team that didn’t make many — just seven in the game.

“I snuck up behind (Kenton Weaver) and dove and just barely got my fingertips on it,” Frank said. “I saw Spencer pick it up and go the other way. I didn’t know if he was going to dunk it because we need these points, but he threw down and I said ‘let’s go’.

“That was a big play and was a big swing of momentum and got the crowd into it,” Frank said.

Oak Hill was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final minute with Middlesworth, Ballingher and Arens each knocking down a pair. The Eagles couldn’t afford any slip ups because Westview point guard Elijah Hales was doing everything he could to keep the Warriors in position to win.

In the fourth quarter, Hales had 17 of his team’s 22 points and at one point hit four straight shots including a 3-pointer and 8-of-8 free throws to answer each Oak Hill score. Hales, whose father Ross Hales played for Indiana University, matched his career high with 31 points.

Eagles coach Kevin Renbarger said the semistate win was the result of the beefed-up schedule his team played this year, and his players were able to draw on it against Westview.

“(Westview) is a poor man’s version of Covington Catholic,” Renbarger said, a reference to the Kentucky powerhouse that defeated Oak Hill 69-53 on Jan. 6. “They are not going to beat themselves, and move the ball around and are efficient and take great shots.

“I do think we were able to bring back that experience into this basketball game,” he added. “They made winning plays and if that’s the case you have to give our kids credit for making winning plays as well. We made the plays on both ends of the floor when we needed to and when had to have them and now we are getting our reward.”

Arens scored 14 points and Frank 10 before fouling out late. Konnor Cabe, the Eagles’ fifth starter, contributed eight points.

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