NEW YORK –– Oak Hill Academy has been good enough to get to the finals of the DICK’S High School Nationals five times. The fifth time, the Warriors were good enough to take the big trophy back to Mouth of Wilson, Va.
Braxton Key had 20 points and Lindell Wigginton had 16 to lead Oak Hill to a 62-60 overtime defeat of La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) Saturday in the DICK’S championship at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m quite happy, obviously,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. “The third time for us in the finals in the Garden and fifth time overall. We gave one away one year at Georgetown Prep (when the event was called the National High School Invitational.)”
Oak Hill led by 18 points early in the third quarter and though the Warriors wound up having to come from behind, Smith said the team has been all about dealing with adversity this season.
“The one game we lost (to 22-foot Academy of Greenville, S.C.), ironically we were also up 18 at half,” Smith said. “We’ve been in this situation before. It’s not good, but we have been there. We have played a great schedule, against maybe half of the teams in the Super 25 and they have responded. We lost two guys early in the season (No. 1 overall recruit Harry Giles and Penn State signee Joe Hampton).
“For our guys to do what they have is amazing to me.”
Wigginton converted a three-point play to tie the game at 60 in overtime with 35 seconds left. La Lumiere worked the ball around for a last shot, but Brian Bowen’s attempt went off the rim.
Oak Hill ran down the other end and Matt Coleman’s shot didn’t fall. Oak Hill missed an initial tip-in attempt, but Khadim Sy’s next tip-in fell at the buzzer.
Oak Hill Academy forward Mario Kegler (4) takes a shot while being defended by La Lumiere center James Banks (0) at the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Basketball Nationals at Madison Square Garden (Photo: Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports)
“Matt made a strong move to the basket and I think two guys tipped it before it went in,” Smith said. “It’s not how you draw it up from a coaching standpoint, but I’ll take it.
“I’m so happy for (Sy). He missed two big free throws and earlier fumbled a ball and didn’t finish. He was kind of down a little bit and it was great for him to be the one to tip it in.”
Oak Hill (45-1), the No. 3 team in the Super 25 boys basketball rankings, took charge from the start against the No. 13 Lakers (27-4) and did not trail until the Lakers went on a 10-0 run to take the lead with more than a minute left in regulation.
La Lumiere had a chance to put the game away in the final seconds but missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11.8 seconds left. Trailing by two, Oak Hill called a timeout to set up a chance to tie or win the game.
La Lumiere fouled with 6.6 seconds left, sending Key, an Alabama signee, to the free throw line. Key made the first — and then after the Lakers called timeout in an attempt to ice him — hit the second. The Lakers’ shot at the buzzer did not fall, sending the game into OT.
La Lumiere was dealt an early blow when 6-11 forward Jeremiah Tilmon went down hard and did not return. Lakers coach Shane Heirman said Tilmon likely dislocated his shoulder. Bowen had 20 and Coleman-Lands had 13 to lead the Lakers.
“I was very proud of the fight our guys showed,” Heirman said. “In the first half, we dealt with quite a bit of adversity. We kind of felt a little defeated in our huddles. I thought our guys rallied and I’m really proud of the fight to put ourselves in this position.”
The Lakers, playing in their first DICK’S final, lose only two seniors to graduation. Bowen said losing in the see-saw manner was difficult to take but there was one consolation.
“It’s by far the worst feeling in the world that you can feel right now., but we’re going to be back.”
Oak Hill has been a solid three-point shooting team all season but advanced past Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) on Friday despite woeful shooting beyond the arc. Saturday, the Warriors regained their shooting touch. They started out 4-for-8 in the first half and finished with 31.3% three-point shooting.
La Lumiere made only 2 of 14 first-half three-point attempts. They kept firing however and fueled their comeback with four three-pointers down the stretch.
“When we lose our size (Tillmon), you have to resort to shooting outside some,” Heirman said. “I told the guys they have to make shots. The message was, get your foot down and get ready and if you don’t see a hand, let it fly.”