Balanced Oak Hill team reaches final at 'Iolani


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oak Hill (Va.) is in the final of the 'Iolani Classic for the fifth straight time, despite Demarcus Cousins' best efforts.

Kendrick Thomas sank two free throws with 6 seconds left to offset 39 points and 13 rebounds by Cousins as the Warriors advanced to tomorrow's 8 p.m. final with a 68-66 victory over LeFlore in last night's first semifinal.

Tiny Gallon had 16 points and seven rebounds before fouling out and Pe'Shon Howard scored eight of his 13 points off the bench in the fourth quarter as the Warriors, ranked fourth in the ESPN Fab 50, remained undefeated (18-0) for the season.

“;It was a little closer than I liked,”; Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. “;We missed some free throws down the stretch that would have kept us from being in that situation at the end of the game.”;

Oak Hill led 63-56 when Gallon fouled out with less than 2 minutes remaining. Without the 6-foot-10 Gallon, Oak Hill had no answer down the stretch for Cousins, who had eight points in the final minute to nearly bring the Rattlers back.

“;He's a cool dude,”; Gallon said. “;I've played with him before, but I've never seen him play like that. He really stepped it up for them.”;

Glenn Bryant gave Oak Hill its largest lead of the game at 59-46 with a jumper early in the fourth quarter.

LeFlore responded with a 10-1 run as Niko Williams and Joseph Shaw came up with two straight putbacks to cut the lead to four.

Howard missed three out of four free throws to keep the Rattlers in the game, but Thomas picked up his teammate by sinking four in the final 30 seconds.

Gallon, who did not start in the quarterfinals against 'Iolani, was back in the starting lineup last night, but struggled with only five points in the first half.

The center opened things up by hitting a step-back 3-pointer early in the third quarter and finished with 11 points in the period.

“;That's what I do,”; Gallon said. “;If I get hot, I can hit five or six of eight 3-pointers.”;

Oak Hill outscored the Rattlers by five in the period, but it gave them a six-point advantage heading into the final quarter that proved critical down the stretch.

“;I thought that we played that third quarter really well and that helped us get a lead and get comfortable,”; Smith said. “;We play a lot better when we're in that comfort zone and I think that was a major part of the game.”;

Lamont Jones finished with 15 points and Doron Lamb chipped in 11 points and six boards for the Warriors, who have reached the final of the Classic every year they have been here. Their only loss came in 1988 against Flint Hill, which was coached by current Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter.

“;It's a privilege to be in the finals of a tournament like this,”; Smith said. “;There are some great teams with great coaches and great players in this tournament, and to make the finals is something we're proud of.”;