In arguably their toughest matchup of the season on Wednesday night, the Oak Hill Golden Eagles put forth a tremendous effort against the defending 3A state champion Northwestern Tigers.
Against a lineup that features superstar point guard Madison Layden, an early favorite for the 2020 Miss Basketball award, and center Kendall Bostic, an offensively gifted, physical presence underneath the basket, the Golden Eagles played valiantly, keeping up their intensity and composure in a 60-42 defeat.
“They’re just a really good basketball team,” Oak Hill Head Coach Todd Law said. “There are lot of things that separate them from other teams, but in my mind, and it was incredibly obvious today I thought in the first half, they are just really good shooters. You don’t see a lot of girls’ teams who are consistently hitting perimeter jump shots like they do. I’m not just talking Layden, they were all hitting.”
Northwestern shot the ball well all evening long, knocking down 44 percent of their looks from the floor (22-of-50), along with five of their 12 attempts from beyond the arc, four of which came from Layden.
Layden was tremendous for the Tigers, leading all scorers with 22 points and becoming Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer in the first quarter, surpassing Kim Tussinger. Bostic was a force inside offensively and on the glass, recording a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Furthermore, Layden dished out seven assists, demonstrating phenomenal court awareness and finding the open player throughout the contest.
“The girls play well together,” Northwestern Head Coach Kathie Layden said. “They know where each other are going to be. Madison does a really good job of making her teammates better and getting them the ball in scoring position.”
Both teams went toe-to-toe in the first quarter, each shooting the ball well to keep the game close in the beginning. While both Bostic and Layden finding their offensive grooves early, the Golden Eagles countered with Taylor Westgate, who has played some excellent basketball herself as of late. Oak Hill’s junior center singlehandedly drove the offense, creating several great chances in the post and scoring eight points as the Tigers took a 14-10 lead after the first quarter of play.
Jenessa Hasty scored the first bucket of the second stanza to make it 14-12, but the Tigers responded with a 9-2 run to grab control of the contest. Efficient offense from Bostic and Layden, combined with Northwestern’s tenacity on the offensive boards, helped the Tigers to maintain their lead throughout the rest of the frame.
“My biggest issue in the first half, which has killed us, is we just did not block out,” Law said. “We gave them 11 points on second chance points, and you just can’t do that. That was the difference in the first half, and it was just really hard to recover at that point.”
Westgate briefly made it a nine-point game late in the first half with her fifth field goal of the game, but back-to-back triples from Layden, the latter coming at the buzzer, gave the Tigers a 33-19 lead at halftime.
“We had some breakdowns defensively that left Layden open three or four times in the first half and she made us pay on all of them,” Law said.
Northwestern led by double-digit points the rest of the way, and did an excellent job of shutting Westgate down offensively after halftime. After scoring 12 points in the first half, she was held to just one field goal after the intermission.
With all of the Tigers’ attention focused on Westgate, Kaela Robey made the most of her opportunities, particularly in the second half, scoring 10 points and making several big plays on both ends of the floor, as well as on the glass.
“To be honest, that was by far Kaela’s best game, reminiscent of what we would see from her last year,” Law said. “She battled really hard on the boards and got some good slashes to the basket and got some buckets for us. I thought her and Taylor especially just really battled inside.”
Westgate finished the game with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Robey came away with 12 points to go along with eight boards.
Playing against a team like Northwestern will only make the Golden Eagles better come tournament time, and overall, despite the defeat, Law was pleased with how his team battled against one of the very best in the entire state.
“I was very proud of the girls,” Law said. “I challenged them at halftime, ‘you’ve got a choice to make. You’re either going to roll over and get blown off the floor, or you can fight and battle back, and they hung with them. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”