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Oak Hill Advances To Mt. Zion Final--(Dec. 22, 1998)

Well, it's down to Oak Hill and Mt. Zion in the final, and you didn't have to be a genius to figure out that this was going to be the final result because these two teams are so clearly superior to the rest of the schools here there was never any doubt that they'd matchup. 
Both of these schools call themselves "high schools" but the players on these teams aren't the same kind of players who are likely to walk through the front door of your local high school.  These are prep schools, and some of the guys who play for these teams look like they might have been in the NBA for couple of years already.   Oak Hill has never really been challenged in this tournament, and neither has Mt. Zion.  So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that both of them will match up tonight at 7:35 in the Durango main gym. 

But before we get to the final, here's what happened today with Oak Hill yesterday, which woke up on Tueday morning, December 22, 1998 to find themselves ranked as USA Today's No. 1 "Super 25" prep basketball team in the country.   And whether Dave Krider has actually seen them play, we can't be certain, but we can say that we haven't seen a team this stacked, this talented anywhere else, so maybe they do really deserve to be called the "best team in America."  

Oak Hill came into the first game of the day against Horizon ranked No. 1 in the country, and from the way this game started, the Oak Hill players were a bit self-satisfied with their ranking, and were out to prove that indeed they weren't going to get beaten. After they got done taking care of Horizon in one of the quarterfinal games in the Championship bracket, by a score of 54-101, there wasn't much danger of them dropping to No. 2 (which incidentally is the spot that Compton Dominguez presently occupies in the same USA Today "Super 25" ranking , at least until next week given the Dons' loss to St. Ignatius on Monday night.

In the first few minutes of the Horizon game it looked like Oak Hill wasn't really a No. 1 team anywhere.  Even though Oak Hill was leading early 6-2 with 4 minutes gone, they were tight, playing sloppy and couldn't get their offense going.   That is until Ronald Slay and Travis Watson got charged up, and Steve Blake managed to get back under control.

Now Horizon was no slouch team,  and they were one of the the big surprises of the tournament, at least for those of us not familiar with Colorado basketball.  They were the Colorado state champions last season, going 20-3 and winnning two tournaments in the process.  Brian Greene (6'-7" Sr. C) returned from that state title team, and he came into the game averaging 27.3 points per game.  Point guard Ryan Gorah (6'-0" Jr. PG) came in averaging 17.3 ppg, and 1.7 assists and 7 steals in three games in the tournament. Dustin Davis (6'-3" Sr. F) was averaging 14.3 ppg and 4.0 rbpg.  This was no slouch team.

But to look at them, you'd think they look like, well, you'd think they look like decent but not great jv players, which really isn't a fair comment to all the good and decent jv players who may one day be great varsity players, but in comparison to Oak Hill, the Oak Hill guys looked like an NBA team.   Come to think of it, even though we actually didn't check to see if there weren't more than a couple of out of work Tall Men on their roster, they certainly have one or two, and maybe three, four or five definite NBA prospects.  Really.  Oak Hill as a team over three games came in averaging 87 ppg while allowing only 53 ppg average.  They were shooting 59.9 % as a team from the field, and they had a total of 44.3 rebounds while their opponents only had 30.7.  This is also a sharing, caring group of star athletes and they were averaging 12.3 assists per game as a team.

Oak Hill didn't just win games, they crushed opponents with their tremendous dunking and slamming skills.  They beat Fontana by more tan 30 points, Inglewood by  47, and Killeen from Texas by 23.  Their total point differential was 261 for them and 161 for their opponents, a 100 point differential, which is just huge. In comparison, Horizon had only an 11 point differential, scoring 222 points over three games, but allowing 211 by their opponents.

Bob Gibbons, the noted recruiting expert was sitting next to us during the game, and he opined about Horizon, "They're very skilled.  They play basketball the way it was supposed to be played."  Well, we'd agree with that, but it all depends on how you define "basketball."

Oak Hill plays basketball differently than Horizon:   They play the game the way it's played today by young, talented and highly gifted athletes, who have superb skills, timing, ball handling abilities and knowledge of the game, a pure instinctive way of playing which sometimes defies the traditional dictates of "basketball" but which, at it's best is pure energy, like watching the Joffrey Ballet.   And today, Oak Hill did just that when, for example,  Ronald Slay, a boy in a man's body, made the first of his umpty-umpth slam dunks at 11:59 to play in the first half (actually, the official scorer only had Slay with 7 points in the entire game, and perhaps that's correct, but those seven points came on three huge slams and one free-throw).   Slay's first slam-dunk was followed by three more by teammates Travis Watson and Diame Abdou, in the first minutes of the first half, and it seemed to energize the team, and shake them out of their USA-Today-induced stupor.  One other significant factor in stirring the Oak Hill machine from its slumber was the play of Steve Blake, Oak Hill's point guard, who will be playing at and contending for a starting spot at the University of Maryland next season.  Blake started out badly, dribbling the ball off his foot the first time he brought the ball up the court, but then got things back under control. He was marvelous handling the ball, a real expert at the spin dribble, cutting and driving throughout the sometimes porous Horizon defense, and even though he didn't score against Horizon, he got the ball to where it needed to be.

Abdou Diame, a thin, wiry guy with extremely good foot skills and leaping ability, was very effective, and when Horizon decided to double him late in the first half, it really made no difference as he hit pull up jumpers or running, driving layups, or even soft floaters in the lane .  Likewise, Steve Blake, the point guard who will play at Maryland next year, is wiry thin, but strong, has excellent court vision, and rarely makes a mistake, has great feet and hands, very quick and strong, .

Travis Watson, who is going to play at Virginia next year, used his great athleticism and speed and just overwhelmed people, dunking, driving and using his body in ways we've only seen in NBA calibre players. He and Ron Slay will be huge college players next year, and we'll go right out on a limb here and say that they are the two most likely NBA prospects to be seen in the tournament.  Count on it.

Terry Reynolds, is sort of a Brandon Granville type of player, except that he's playing better defense now than Granville is now, and that' s not meant to be taken as a slight.   He's probably the best one on  one defender on this team, running forward, sideways or backwards, and even though Ryan Gorah (6'-0" Jr. PG) was breaking ankles all over the place,  Reynolds and Cliff Hawkins were the only guys in this tournament who were able to contain him. 

Scoring in this game was really not the point.  It was pretty easy to see that Horizon was overmatched and at the half the score was 45-21.  Midway through the second half, the score was 79-33, and the big news was John Humphrey, (6'-1" Sr. G) who literally became the human highlight film. He jumped higher than anyone we've ever seen in any game, except maybe in a video game, and did things more extraordinary than anyone besides perhaps  Jordan. He put on a dunk exhibition like none we've ever seen in a high school game, with slams, reverses, two handed, one hand windmills, and one observer sitting near us remarked about his ability to catch seemingly uncatchable alley-oops, "He just goes up and gets it."

With 2:00 to play in this game, it was 98-51, and we'll let you guess which team was ahead.  Here are the final stats.

Oak Hill 101
Horizon 54

Oak Hill (12-0)
Hawkins 3-3 4-4 10, Lovett 1-2 1-3 3, Humphrey 7-9 1-1 16, Stevens 1-3  3-3 6, Reynolds 6-8 0-0 17, Williams 4-4 0-0 8, Slay 3-7 1-2 7, Diame 9-10 1-1 19, Sterrett 2-2 0-0 4, Watson 6-8 0-3 12.

Horizon (7-2)
Alvarado 2-5 2-2 6, Ford 1-1 0-0 3, Gorah 4-13 0-0 12, Davis 2-5 2-2 6, Warren 2-9 1-2 7, Greene 5-10 6-9 16, Lovett 2-3 0-0 4.

Score by halves
Oak Hill 45 56 Final 101
Horizon 21 33 Final 54

Later in the evening, Oak Hill did it's thing by beating up on Washigton College, and other than more dunks, and the crowd booing Steve Smith, Oak Hill's coach for not putting in Humphrey until about two minutes in the game, and then booing even louder because Humphrey didn't get to touch the ball, there was little that was remarkable about the game.  Really.  Here are the stats for the Oak Hill v. American College game:


Oak Hill 79
Washington College 59

Washington College (15-1)
Kandic 2-6 0-0 6, Videnov 9-13 0-0 20, Francic 0-0 1-3 1, Gray 1-6 5-6 7, Perry 2-7 2-2 6, Pandov 1-2 0-0 2,
Milicic 6-14 0-0 17.

Oak Hill (13-0)
Hawkins 4-11 2-6 10, Lovett 1-1 0-0 2, Reynolds 5-11 4-4 17, Blake 4-7 1-1 11, William 2-2 0-0 4, Slay 8-10 1-2 17, Diame 1-2 0-0 2, Sterrett 0-0 0-0 0, Watson 6-8 4-7 16.

Washington College 22 37 Final 79
Oak Hill 41 38  Final 79

With this win, it set up an Oak Hill v. Mt. Zion final.

We'll be there and will have the result for you.

Later...

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