MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. — Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) has shown its resiliency all year.
Shortly after Harry Giles and Joe Hampton went down with injuries at the beginning of the season, the Warriors lost their fourth game of the season to 22-foot Academy (Greenville, S.C.) and they haven’t lost since.
On Friday, when Super 25 No. 13 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), fueled by a crowd roaring for an upset in a DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals semifinal, went up by seven points on a layup by Raylon Richardson late in the game, No. 3 Oak Hill didn’t panic.
And when Wolverines guard Aaron Augustin raced down court, looking for a last-second shot, Warriors forward Braxton Key calmly blocked it before it could have a prayer and the Warriors survived for a 47-46 victory at Christ The King High.
“We were hoping (Alterique Gilbert) wouldn’t get the ball and that part worked,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. “Augustin wanted to go middle, but Lindell (Wigginton) forced him outside and that worked for us. He went up and fortunately, Braxton blocked it.”
Oak Hill will play La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) in Saturday’s championship at Madison Square Garden. The DICK’S (and its predecessor, the National High School Invitational) is the one tournament that has eluded the Warriors. They are 0-4 in the event’s finals, including losing to Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) the last two years.
“I think everybody thinks since we got in the finals and Montverde got beat, that we’re going to win it,” Smith said. “I’d like to win it. You want to win everything in sight. We’re 5-0 in the semifinals. It’s time for these guys to get the monkey off the old coach’s back.”
The Warriors (44-1), taller at nearly every position, led by 12 points midway through the second quarter, but the Wolverines (31-3) used their team speed to chip away at Oak Hill’s lead. At the end, though, the Wolverines last two shots didn’t fall.
“We got off to a slow start, but we got it together,” Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “It was another heavyweight fight. We made good runs and they made good runs.
“At the end of the day, it came down to doing the little things. We had a couple of situations where we didn’t do the right things or the little things. Overall, I think we showed we are one of the top programs in the country. I think we did a good job of that. We don’t look at ourselves as a Cinderella team. We didn’t’ come here with the minds to upset, we just came to win.”
Oak Hill had a balanced effort, with four players in double figures, led by Lindell Wigginton with 12 points. Miller Grove was led by Gilbert with 19.