For three years, Shady Spring was close, but not quite there, in terms of a signature win that would put them on the basketball map.
On Thursday night, they might have finally arrived.
Chase Connor scored 20 points and the Tigers (5-0) earned a big 60-52 win over defending Class AA state champion Oak Hill at Shady Spring.
“It’s a very, very big win,” Connor said. “We didn’t get any votes (in the state preseason poll) and this win should help the program out.”
Every play the Tigers needed they got, including what both coaches pointed to as a pivotal steal and basket by Connor at the end of the half.
Down 26-20, Shady’s Adam Weeks made a basket and on the ensuing inbounds pass, Connor made the steal, leaned away and hit a bank shot as the horn sounded to pull Shady to within two.
“I think they might have lost focus a little bit and Chase made a great play on the ball,” Shady coach Steve Clark said. “That was big to keep us in the game and gave us a momentum swing, which is always big in high school basketball.”
Oak Hill coach Fred Ferri felt it, too.
“We are up six and we have the ball,” Ferri said. “We rush down and take a shot we shouldn’t have taken; they come down and get a basket and then the steal. Instead of being up by at least six, maybe more, it’s a two-point game.
“Instead of being down eight or nine, they’re in the lockerroom saying, ‘We are down two to the state champions and we’re going to kick their butts.’ And they did.”
In the second half, Shady generated that momentum into 19 third-quarter points to take a 43-40 lead into the fourth.
Oak Hill (1-2) cut it to one on a Kam Carroll basket, but Shady went on a 7-0 run, punctuated by a Connor three to make it 50-42.
Kalif Wright hit two free throws but a 5-0 Shady Spring run put the deficit at 11 with two minutes left and Shady had the win.
The Tigers held Wright (averaging 29 points coming into the game) to 13 points.
Clark credited Kevin Goodson with holding Wright in check.
“We never let him get the ball inside,” Clark said. “That was our goal and Kevin did a good job on him and Coty Frye did too when Kevin came out.”
“I’ve been lifting since I’ve been here so I know he isn’t stronger than me,” Goodson said. “I wasn’t going to let him push me around and own the inside. We have a good team. A lot better than people think.”
Oak Hill had a chance to push the score out to near double digits leading 15-10 near the end of the first half. But again, Shady didn’t flinch.
“We’re up five with possession,” Ferri said. “It should have been a five-point lead at least. We just aren’t very good. We aren’t. Give the Shady Spring kids credit. They outplayed us, they outhustled us and they were smarter than we were.”
Adam Weeks added 14 points for the Tigers and Corey Lilly had 12.
Oak Hill freshman point guard Javonne Staunton-Bailey had 17 and Wright 13. Third-team all-stater Deandre Leonard was held to just four points.
“Since we’ve been here, we haven’t beaten Oak Hill,” said senior Matt Severt, who had four points. “We knew if we wanted to do anything (in the postseason) we had to beat Oak Hill. This is a big win for us.”
Oak Hill will get a chance for redemption today when it plays Greenbrier West in the John Flournoy Memorial Classic at Hico at 4 p.m.
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Shady Spring 60, Oak Hill 52
Oak Hill (1-2)
Deandre Leonard 1 1-2 4, Javonne Staunton-Bailey 7 0-0 17, Thomas Booth 0 2-2 2, Kam Carroll 3 0-0 6, Kalif Wright 4 5-6 13, Zach Nibert 1 0-0 2, Kyle Colon 2 0-0 4, Lavon Elam 0 0-0 0, Noah Smith 2 0-0 4. Totals: 20 8-10 60.
Shady Spring (5-0)
Chase Connor 8 1-2 20, Corey Lilly 4 4-5 12, Kevin Goodson 4 0-0 8, Adam Weeks 6 2-3 14, Matt Severt 1 1-6 4, Josh Richmond 0 0-1 0, Coty Frye 0 0-2 0, John Alley 0 2-4 2. Totals: 23 10-21 60.
OH 15 11 14 12 — 52
SS 14 10 19 17 — 60
Three-point goals: OH: 4 (Staunton-Bailey 3, Leonard); SS: 4 (Connor 3, Severt); Fouled out: Booth, Nibert.