“Enthusiasm breeds confidence, and confidence breeds hard play.”
Oak Hill Head Coach Kevin Renbarger has been preaching this message to his team over the last few weeks, as the Golden Eagles have worked to navigate a tough stretch, one in which they lost three of four heading into their conference matchup with Eastbrook on Friday night.
Those three key aspects had been missing since their win over Western
back on December 22. Sluggish starts proved costly in losses to Madison-Grant and Peru, while a plethora of turnovers led to a double-digit defeat to Southwood just three days earlier.
However, Renbarger’s words manifested themselves in his players on Friday night. From the opening tip until the final horn, Oak Hill’s enthusiasm, confidence, and hard play were on full display, and it led to their most impressive performance of the season, an 88-41 victory over the Panthers.
“It’s nice to get a victory. It’s nice to get to a win,” Renbarger said. “But to me, it’s not as much about the victory, about the score…as much as it is about the way that we won the game.”
Oak Hill’s triumph boiled down to three key factors: their aggressiveness on defense, their confidence on offense, and the continued ascension of sophomore star Landon Biegel.
The Golden Eagles set the tone on the defensive end of the floor, forcing 21 Eastbrook turnovers, 15 of which came in the first two quarters, which allowed them to build a double-digit lead and sustain it throughout most of the contest.
“We turned it over too much,” Eastbrook Head Coach Greg Allison said. “And then…they were able to convert it into baskets. There for a while, we struggled sprinting back defensively. Unfortunately, with [games] like this, it just snowballs on you.”
Oak Hill’s defensive prowess led to a plethora of easy baskets, which allowed them to find their rhythm offensively. Thirteen Golden Eagles scored at least two points, and the team tied a program record with 13 made threes in the contest. As a team, Oak Hill shot 32-of-65 (49 percent) from the field and 13-of-29 (45 percent) from distance.
“Seeing the ball go in the basket helps with confidence and enthusiasm,” Renbarger said. “We’ve been preaching all of these intangibles, but then it helps when you see the ball go in the basket. This was as good of a shooting night as this group has had this year. They are all capable shooters, and obviously, we are hoping that this evolves into a better shooting than we have been.”
Heading into his sophomore season, there was no doubt that Biegel was already a special and gifted player. Throughout his freshman season, he showed flashes of greatness, and with the injuries the Golden Eagles sustained before the 2020-2021 campaign began, he was thrust into an even larger role – and all he has done is excel.
Biegel led the offensive charge for Oak Hill, scoring a career-high 33 points on 13-of-16 shooting from the floor.
“Last night in practice, he was shooting lights out, and I actually yelled at him, jokingly, to save those in his holster for tonight,” Renbarger said. “That is a once in a lifetime kind of a game for anybody to be in a zone like he was in. We were calling three-point plays for him because that basket was just quite monstrous looking to him. Tonight, obviously, he had the three-point shot going, and they were giving him the three-point shot. He did a good job of reading that and taking that.”
From the end of the first quarter through the midway point of the third, he hit 11 straight shots, which included four straight threes in his 16-point third quarter.
“He’s a really good player,” Allison said. “He’s put a lot of time into the game of basketball to become a really good player. He just made shots. He played really well.”
Eastbrook opened the scoring with a Jett Engle field goal, but the Golden Eagles responded with 11 straight points and never relinquished the lead. Oak Hill forced five of their seven first quarter turnovers in that stretch and hit 11 field goals in the opening eight minutes to take a 27-14 lead.
“We tried to beat them off the dribble too much instead of beating them with the pass,” Allison said. “[Oak Hill] did a good job. I’m sure that was a point of emphasis – keeping the ball out of the lane.”
Oak Hill kept the pressure on in the second quarter, forcing eight more turnovers and outscoring the Panthers 14-7 to increase their advantage to 41-21 at the halftime break.
After a dominant first half, the Golden Eagles put the game away in the third quarter, scoring 31 points and shooting 11-of-19 from the floor. Biegel scored his 16 points on six-of-seven shooting.
Armed with a big lead, Renbarger gave some of his JV players some varsity minutes and they made the most of their opportunity, helping the Golden Eagles secure their seventh victory of the season.
Strange finished as the Golden Eagles’ second leading scorer with 11 points, while Kian Hite scored eight points and co-led the team with six rebounds. Caleb Kroll, Mason McKinney, and Jacob Winger also contributed valuable minutes, each finishing with five points.
“Kroll is emerging and needs more playing time. I think he is a double-digit scorer because of the attention the other two will get,” Renbarger said. “Matthew was a 54 percent three-point shooter last year, and I think he is getting used to the speed of varsity basketball. He is a better shooter than what he is showing. And Mason is a kid that we have been begging to look to score more on the offensive end, and he is starting to be aggressive.”
For Eastbrook, Braxton Bowser led the way with nine points to go along with six rebounds, while Engle finished with eight points. Isaac Rans finished with seven points and game-leading 10 boards, while Jaxson VanBelkum also scored seven.