JACKSON, Ohio — For the Raiders, 32 minutes were just two too many.
The no. 10 seed River Valley boys basketball team held a three-point lead over second-seeded Oak Hill, in Saturday’s Division III sectional final at Jackson High School.
However, the Oaks avoided what would have been just their second loss of the season, outscoring the Raiders by an 11-to-2 clip over the final 120 seconds to take the sectional crown by a 39-33 final.
The Raiders (9-15) scored the first seven points of the game and never trailed in the opening quarter. Led by a trio of three-pointers, Oak Hill (22-1) — the fifth-ranked team in the final OHSAA Division III AP poll — battled back to within two points, at 16-14, by the end of the first period.
The Oaks took their first lead of the game, at 17-16, in the opening minute of the second quarter on an old-fashioned three pointer. OHHS pushed its lead to four with its fourth triple of the half, but River Valley rattled off five straight points and led 21-20 with 5:20 left in the second quarter.
The Oaks hit their fifth trifecta of the half at the 4:38 mark, regaining the advantage until River Valley tied the game at 23, with 1:20 left in the half. River Valley junior Dustin Barber hit a put-back basket with 29 seconds left in the period, giving the Silver and Black a 25-23 advantage at halftime.
Oak Hill regained the lead, at 26-25, at the 5:23 mark of the third quarter. With 2:26 left in the third, RVHS tied the game at 26 on a Jacob Dovenbarger free throw, but it was River Valley’s only point of the period.
The Oaks hit a two-pointer with 58 seconds left in the third, giving OHHS a 28-26 lead headed into the finale.
After a five minutes scoreless stretch to start the fourth, River Valley took the lead, at 29-28, on a Jarret McCarley three-pointer, off of an assist from Barber. With 2:15 remaining in regulation, McCarley made a pair of free throws to extend the Raider lead to three points, at 31-28.
With just under two minutes to play, Oak Hill tied the game at 31, on a three-pointer from Nolan Carroll, off of Mitchell Hale’s assist.
With 1:21 left in the game, the Oaks regained the lead on a two-pointer by Landon Carroll. Oak Hill then made 6-of-6 free throws over its next three possessions, extending the OHHS lead to eight points, at 39-31, with 16 seconds remaining.
River Valley sank a two-pointer with four seconds left, and Oak Hill missed back-to-back free throws just a second later, capping off the Oaks’ 39-33 victory.
“The guys played their hearts out tonight,” first-year River Valley head coach Bryan Drummond said. “In the second half, we missed some shots we should have made. Oak Hill is a good team, obviously. I told them in the huddle, ‘it’s not going to be given to you, you have to earn it,’ and Oak Hill earned it.
“I thought the game would be close all along, and that’s no disrespect to Oak Hill what so ever,” added Coach Drummond. “I just know that we under-achieved a little this year and we were ready to play. We just needed to make a couple more shots, that’s all there is to it. We’d be going to play next Sunday if we make a couple more shots in the middle of the fourth quarter.”
After hitting 50 percent from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range in the first half, the Raiders were held to 15.4 percent from the field, including 25 percent from deep, in the second half.
For the game, River Valley shot 12-of-33 from the field, including 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Oaks shot 12-of-36 (33.3 percent) from the field, including 7-of-20 (35 percent) from beyond the arc.
From the free throw line, Oak Hill was 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) and the Raiders were 5-of-9 (55.6 percent).
“I just thought in the first half we had no energy,” said Oak Hill head coach Norm Persin, who claimed his 707th career victory with the win. “Give credit to (River Valley), they played really hard and they made shots. We know that Dovenbarger is a really nice player inside and what it does is, it opens it up for his guards to get to the rim and they were able to do that. We told our kids at halftime, ‘you’re not rebounding and you’re not getting any loose ball’. Once we started doing that, we got back in the game.”
The Raiders claimed a 26-to-17 rebounding advantage for the game, with a 10-to-4 edge on the offensive glass. River Valley committed 14 turnovers in the setback, seven in each half. After five turnovers in the first half, Oak Hill gave the ball away just once over the final 16 minutes.
The Oaks held advantages in assists (9-to-8) and steals (8-to-3), while RVHS claimed a 6-to-1 advantage in blocked shots.
“You have to win the free throw battle, you have to get more rebounds than them and you have to make more layups,” said Coach Drummond. “With those key stats you have to get two of the three and they got two of the three tonight. They made more free throws than us and we missed some layups that we should have made. Rebounding we won, probably pretty handily.”
McCarley led the RVHS offense with 15 points, followed by Barber with six. Dovenbarger and Tre Craycraft both scored five points for the Raiders, while Ian Polcyn chipped in with two markers.
Polcyn led the Silver and Black on the glass with seven boards, followed by Dovenbarger with five and McCarley with four. Barber and Dovenbarger each marked a pair of assists in the contest.
Jacob Campbell led the River Valley defense with two steals and one blocked shot. Dovenbarger rejected three shots for the Raiders, while McCarley sent back a pair of shots.
Just three Oaks marked the in scoring column, led by Nolan Carroll with 15 points. Hale scored 14 in the win, while Landon Carroll added 10.
Hale pulled in a game-best eight rebounds, while Landon Carroll dished out a game-high four assists, followed by Brett Long with three helpers. Nolan Carroll also led the OHHS defense with three steals, while Long posted two steals and one rejection.
This marks the final game in the Silver and Black for RVHS seniors Tre Craycraft, Ian Polcyn and Jacob Dovenbarger.
“Our seniors did a great job,” said Coach Drummond. “They were our everything, they were our heart and soul. As they went, that’s how we went. They played hard tonight, they played their guts out, all of them did.”
The Oaks — who have now won nine sectional titles — will play in their first district tournament since 2013 on Sunday, against sixth-seeded Paint Valley, at the Convocation Center in Athens.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.