GREENTOWN – It took two timeouts from Oak Hill coach Kevin Renbarger in the game’s opening minutes to get his squad to respond.
What must have seemed like a flashback to the previous night - a 60-50 loss at Peru on Friday - the Golden Eagles fell behind by double-digits before getting on the scoreboard. However, on Saturday evening Eastern was limited to single-digit points in each of the middle two quarters, and Oak Hill rallied for a 49-36 road victory.
“We are a better offensive team than what we are showing,” a relieved Renbarger said. “As that is trying to figure its way out we’ve got to hang our hat on the defensive end.”
Eastern jumped out to a 10-0 lead as Matt Arcari buried a pair of 3-pointers and a 15-footer that was sandwiched around an Evan Monzie bucket.
Yet, over the final 29 minutes and 50 seconds, the Comets couldn’t solve the Oak Hill matchup zone defense and scored just 26 more points.
“Defensively we were as good as we’ve been,” Renbarger noted. “When you are connected on one end of the floor and you get confidence, the other end of the floor will come.”
By the end of the opening quarter, Oak Hill had clawed within 12-10 as senior Tahj Johnson hit a trey in the waning seconds.
“Once we got back into the basketball game, I think we locked down defensively,” Renbarger added. “I think they really struggled to score and did not have an answer.”
In the second quarter, the Golden Eagles managed to grab the lead twice. Reserve guard Jacob Winger sank a 15-foot jumper at the 6:31 mark, and then senior Kody Dubois’ 3-point bucket put the Golden Eagles ahead 17-16 late in the half. Eastern regained the lead on a 3-pointer from Brayden Richmond, but a tip by Johnson on a missed free throw from Tristen Hayes sent the teams to the halftime break at 19-all.
It was an old-fashioned 3-point play from Johnson early in the third quarter that gave Oak Hill a lead they would never relinquish (22-21).
“That is big for me,” said Johnson, whose quickness and leaping ability led to a game-high 15 points. “I’m kind of the energy guy since Kian (Hite) is out. I’ve been trying my hardest when something good happens and I let the team know.”
With the Golden Eagles struggling from behind the arc in its previous two games (both losses) at 4-for-22, freshman Landon Biegel hit perhaps the biggest of the game, that pushed the lead to 32-25 with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter. As a team, Oak Hill hit 50-percent (4-of-8) from long range, while Eastern hit just over 30-percent (6-19).
Clay McCorkle overcame turnovers and a slow start to score seven of his 10 points to help put the game away in the final quarter. His 3-pointer with 6:18 remaining stretched the lead to 37-25, and his free throws provided the largest advantage of the contest at 39-25.
Oak Hill used the height advantage of Hayes (6-5) and Ryan Pederson (6-7) to own the boards 29-19. Each collected three offensive rebounds and combined for 15 in total.
“That is me and Ryan’s game, offensive rebounds and putbacks,” said Hayes who chipped in 11 points and eight caroms as well. “I’m glad we finally stepped up.”
Pederson finished with four points and seven rebounds and altered several Comet shots inside.
“Very proud of (Ryan’s) progress,” Renbarger said. “He gives us another option. I think he makes us bigger, and defensively makes us more formidable.”
Despite six first-quarter turnovers, Oak Hill only committed 10 on the night, while Eastern had 14 miscues.
Oak Hill (6-5) returns to action Tuesday when Southwood (3-7) pays a visit.