Less than a year ago, the Oak Hill Golden Eagles were standing in the middle of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, wearing their medals and hoisting the 2A state championship trophy.
But on Friday night, the Wabash Apaches made sure that Oak Hill would not get a chance to defend their title.
Behind an aggressive defense and a dominant second quarter, the Apaches grabbed a big lead and held it the rest of the way in a 75-44 triumph over the Golden Eagles in the sectional 37 semifinal on Friday night.
From the opening tip, Oak Hill struggled with ball control, and it allowed Wabash to grab the momentum early. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over seven times in the opening eight minutes and trailed 22-14 heading into the second quarter.
Oak Hill’s Tristen Hayes scored the first basket of the frame to cut Wabash’s lead to six, but the rest of the quarter belonged to the Apaches, who ended the first half on a 15-0 surge to take a 37-16 lead at halftime.
The Golden Eagles struggled to find any consistent offense, shooting just seven-for-23 in the opening two quarters. Hayes finished with four of those field goals for eight points, but the rest of the team shot a combined three-for-16.
Along with that, the Apaches dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Golden Eagles by a margin of 21-14, 11 of which came on the offensive glass.
“They made everything that we wanted to do very hard to get done,” Oak Hill Head Coach Kevin Renbarger said. “Some of that falls on me. I didn’t do a good job of obviously giving our kids direction and guidance as to what we wanted to get accomplished. They just made every pass difficult, every entry difficult, and every shot was contested.”
Wabash’s defense was stout throughout the first half, forcing 15 turnovers and recording four steals.
“Some of it obviously was a lack of concentration on our part and a lack of execution, but to a certain degree, you have to give a lot of credit to Wabash,” Renbarger said. “They were a step quicker to the basketball everywhere that we wanted to go.”
Wabash kept the pedal to the metal, leading by double digits the rest of the way. They built a 59-33 after the third quarter, and ultimately cruised to the 31-point victory.
“They’re just very, very good,” Renbarger said. “There are times when you are going to have the upper hand, where you’re the hammer, and then there going to be times when you’re the nail. And tonight I think was a lesson in where we are at compared to where Wabash is right now.”
Wabash found their offensive groove after halftime, shooting 13-for-24 in the final two quarters. Trenton Daughtry led the way with 26 points, while Dereck Vogel finished with 19 points on seven-for-nine shooting from the field.
On the other hand, Oak Hill shot just 32 percent (17-for-52) for the contest.
“On the offensive end, if they are going to shoot like that on a consistent basis, they have a chance to make on a very, very deep run,” said Renbarger.
Hayes played well in Oak Hill’s season finale, recording a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds while shooting nine-for-16 for the game.
“Tristen was one of the kids that we had on the floor that I felt like could match physically and athletically what Wabash was putting on the floor,” Renbarger said. “I think that’s why he had some success.”
Landry Ozmun and Kian Hite each scored five points for the Golden Eagles, while Clay McCorkle and Konnor Cabe finished with four points apiece.
It was an up-and-down season, but the Golden Eagles played much better down the stretch, going 4-2 in their final six games. Renbarger hopes that Friday night’s loss will inspire his team to put in the work this offseason in order to come back better and more improved.
“When we sit down and talk about the game on Monday and our season on Monday and where we need to go, that’s going to be the conversation,” Renbarger said. “Taking the weight room seriously, taking their body seriously, and investing in getting better fundamentally. We don’t have to look very far to see where we are and where we need to be, and Wabash was that eye-opener for us.”
The Golden Eagles finished the 2018-2019 season with a 10-13 record.