Dragons hold on to win sectional title
JACKSON — The Fairland Dragons’ sophomore starting lineup was taught a few new lessons on Friday.
Fortunately, they had learned enough during the regular season to pass the test.
At times playing like usual and at other times playing like one would expect a young team in a sectional final, the Dragons held on to beat the Oak Hill Oaks 52-47 to win the Division III sectional title.
Fairland (19-4) led by as many as 16 points in the second half and 13 in the fourth quarter but needed some clutch foul shots by Ty Staten with five seconds left to seal the win.
“I think we got too laid back. We kept thinking put ‘em away, put ‘em away, but (Oak Hill) fought hard and stayed in the game. We had some silly turnovers at some big times, just uncharacteristic of what we’ve done,” said Fairland coach Nathan Speed.
“This is the first time getting there you know it’s not going to be easy especially against coach (Norm) Persin. A young team handling that pressure in this type of game even with the big games we’ve played in this year was tough, but we made plays when we needed to down the stretch.”
Oak Hill (13-11) made some plays to get back in the game. The Oaks went 4-of-7 from the 3-point line in the fourth quarter including one by Cody Swann with 46 seconds to go after a steal of an inbound pass by Mitchell Hale.
The Dragons had six of their 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Hale had a second steal and launched a 3-pointer that rattled around the rim and popped out that would have tied the game. Staten was then fouled and hit his clutch free throws.
“The free throws (by Staten) were big. He’s really worked on his foul shooting throughout the year and improved it, especially in clutch. He’s really good under pressure on the line. They hit some big 3s at the end, a couple we didn’t defend well and a couple we did defend well,” said Speed.
“Overall we did a good job defensively. We had some breakdowns there at the end. I think again it came down to us thinking it’s over. We just weren’t really focused defensively. They’re a really disciplined team. One breakdown and they can knock it down.”
The biggest statistic difference came at the foul line. Fairland was 16-of-23 with Kollin Van Horn going 7-for-10 while Oak Hill was 4-of-6.
Persin said Van Horn was the reason.
“Van Horn is the difference in there. He does so much on the defensive end plus the offensive end. He just does so many great things for their team. He makes it tough for us to score in the paint,” said Persin.
The lead changed hands four times in the first quarter with a 3-pointer by Landon Carroll putting the Oaks up 13-12 to end the quarter.
But Fairland outscored Oak Hill 11-3 in the second quarter to take a 23-16 halftime lead. The Oaks were just 1-of-10 from the field in the quarter and missed all five 3-point attempts.
“We went stone cold in the second quarter and then we started to shoot too quick. We didn’t hit much in the third and then in the fourth we got hot again,” said Persin.
“We took away their transition game. We did a good job there. We didn’t let them kill us on the boards.”
The Oaks got within 33-25 on a layup by Dennis Fleming with 4:03 on the third quarter clock, but a putback by Isaiah Howell gave Fairland its biggest lead at 41-25 with 1:40 left.
Carroll’s trifecta and layup made it 41-30 to end the quarter.
After a triple by Carroll made it 43-35, the Dragons’ Luke Thomas took over with a putback, a foul shot and a layup for a 48-35 lead with 3:20 to play.
But Swann hit three 3-pointers and Hale was 3-of-4 at the foul line as Oak Hill got within three and setting up Staten’s clutch free throws.
Gunner Short led the Dragons with 12 points. Howell had 11 points and nine rebounds, Van Horn 11 points and eight rebounds while Thomas added 10 points.
Swann had 15 points, Carroll 14 and Hale 12 for the Oaks.
Fairland will play Adena at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Ohio University Convocation Center in the district semifinals. Adena beat Westfall 59-52.
Oak Hill 13 3 14 17 = 47
Fairland 12 11 18 11 = 52
OAK HILL (13-11): Landon Carroll 1 4 0-0 14, Mitchell Hale 3 1 3-4 12, Nolan Carroll 0 1 0-0 3, Cody Swann 3 3 0-0 15, Dennis Fleming 1 0 1-2 3, Brett Long 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-42 4-6 47. 3-point goals: 9-22. Rebounds: 2-O, 16-D = 18 (Swann 4, Hale 4, Fleming 4). Team rebounds: 1. Assists 8 (Hale 4). Steals: 7 (Hale 4, Swann 2). Turnovers: 11. Blocks: 3. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: Long (4th 1:06).
FAIRLAND (19-4): Ty Staten 2 0 4-4 8, Isaiah Howell 5 0 1-2 11, Kollin Van Horn 2 0 7-10 11, Luke Thomas 3 1 1-2 10, Gunner Short 3 1 3-5 12, Keedrick Cunningham 0 0 0-0 0, Hayden James 0 0 0-0 0, Dairus Stapleton 0 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-42 16-23 52. 3-point goals: 2-7. Rebounds: 13-O, 24-D = 37 (Howell 9, Van Horn 8, Thomas 6). Team rebounds: 8. Assists: 4 (Short 2). Steals: 7 (Howell 2, Staten 2, Cunningham 2). Blocks: 1 (Van Horn). Turnovers: 14. Fouls: 10. Fouled out: None.