Holding a 25-point lead at halftime, Oak Grove looked to pull away from West Harrison at the start of the third quarter in the first round of the 6A playoffs.
Instead, the Warriors were caught off guard by the Hurricanes, who came out the half playing like a team with nothing to lose.
“I told the guys coming in that I thought this was the game that you have got to be careful,” Oak Grove coach Laron Brumfield said. “This is a game that you could lose very easily. If you didn’t come out and focus and didn’t play hard from the beginning of the game, you probably would get beat. We came out and started the game exactly the way we needed to. Unfortunately, we didn’t sustain that in the third quarter.”
West Harrison outscored Oak Grove 25-7 and hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to narrow the deficit to seven points. However, the late challenge proved to be a valuable learning lesson for the Warriors, who closed the game out with a 73-59 win.
“(We have) to stay dialed in and locked in,” said Jay Barnes, who scored 16 points. “We had to know that if we play defense and play as a group, everything will take care of ourselves.”
For the first half of the game, defense and playing as a team helped the Warriors hold a 22-8 lead in the first quarter.
Dylan Brumfield and Tyrus Crump helped Oak Grove jump out to a 12-0 lead and combined for 18 points in the quarter.
“We were really just feeling the game out,” said Crump, who led the Warriors with 19 points. “Coach had been talking about pushing the ball more, so we just came out and executed that. We knew what we had to do to (beat the zone defense), but we just had to make the adjustment. (The adjustment) was just hitting the open spots because they were moving really slow on the switches.
West Harrison focused on limiting Barnes and 3-point sharpshooter Rahmil Thompson, which helped create offensive opportunities inside the paint.
“We play well off each other,” Brumfield said. “I think one of the things we are starting to do better now is taking what the defense gives us. They were kind of edging hard on Jay (Barnes) and Rahmil (Thompson) on the 3-point shots, so when we were driving, Crump was open. We had been talking about going up and shooting the ball with confidence. Dylan made a couple of good moves and made a couple of good shots. We have to take what the defense gives us and not force things.”
In the second quarter, Barnes and Thompson heated up as they combined for 13 points and contributed to four of Oak Grove’s eight 3-pointers in the first half, which helped the Warriors take a 45-20 lead at the half.
“We came out up 25 and thought they were going to lay down,” Brumfield said. “They came out hard and got a couple of turnovers and a couple of steals. They made some shots and made it a game.”
In the third quarter, West Harrison pulled together a 16-2 run, which helped close their deficit in the third quarter.
“They were playing really good defense, and they made a run,” Crump said. “(Coach) was saying just protect the ball and have ball security. That was it. We don’t want to have possessions like that during the playoffs. We can’t do that against a good team.”
However, Oak Grove settled down and answered the late challenge by outscoring the Hurricanes 20-14 in the fourth quarter.
“We have to come out and play hard,” Brumfield said. “We can’t take anything for granted. Leave it all on the court, and that way you can’t question anything, then let the results take care of themselves.”