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Oak Hill Warriors honored for National Championship win

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By The Staff

By SHAINA STOCKTON and LARRY CHAMBERS
Staff

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MOUTH OF WILSON — The Oak Hill Academy Warriors were honored for their Dick’s High School National Championship win in April, during a celebration assembly held May 11 at the Fletcher Chapel on campus.
Dr. Michael D. Groves opened the ceremony by thanking Head Coach Steve Smith and the team for their dedication and their victories for the season.
Oak Hill Academy has reached the finals of Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National basketball tournament five times now; but this year proved to be their year when the Warriors defeated La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) with a score of 62-60 in the championship game on April 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Warriors, with a record of 45-1 for the season, won three games to claim the title. In the quarterfinals, Oak Hill defeated 15th ranked Wasatch Academy (Utah) 81-64 to advance to the semifinals. Oak Hill took on 7th ranked Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) in the semifinals and won 47-46.
Braxton Key blocked the final shot by Miller Grove to preserve the win.
In the championship game, the Warriors took an early 16-10 lead after the first period. In the second period, La Lumiere scored seven points to trail 28-17 at halftime.
In the third period, Coach Smith said in an interview that La Lumiere made a comeback, and outscored the Warriors 16-6 in the fourth period to send the game into overtime with a 52-52 score.
Oak Hill trailed by three points with 35 seconds to play in overtime when Lindell Wigginton scored and was fouled. He converted the free throw to tie the game. La Lumiere worked the ball around for the last shot, but Brian Bowen’s attempt missed.
During the final seconds of overtime, Oak Hill’s Matt Coleman missed a shot to break a 60-all tie. The Warriors missed a tip-in attempt, but a second tip by Khadim Sy found the bottom of the basket to give Oak Hill the win just before the buzzer.
“It was pandemonium in the stadium and back here on campus. It was a great moment for the team, for the coaches, and for our school,” Groves said during the ceremony. “We want to thank our team for a wonderful season. And Coach Smith, thank you for continuing your Hall of Fame journey here at Mouth of Wilson. You have a well-earned reputation as a good coach and a good man.”
Coach Smith thanked several people, including his wife, his assistant coach Dr. Groves, school administrators, faculty and staff, his team and the student body. “I like to tell my team every year that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. That is exactly what our team managed to accomplish this year,” he said.
During his closing comments, Smith paused as his phone began to ring. The crowd laughed and clapped when they discovered that he’d set the final 15 seconds of the game as his ringtone.
Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet, representing the Grayson County Board of Supervisors, took a moment during the ceremony to recognize the Oak Hill Academy Warriors with a proclamation that was approved by the county.
“The Oak Hill Warriors have a storied history and a legacy of excellence under the leadership and direction of legendary Head Coach Steve Smith; and tremendous hard work and dedication was a turning point in leading the Oak Hill Warriors on April 2, in Madison Square Garden Arena in New York City, to bring the prestigious Dick’s High School National Championship Trophy home to Mouth of Wilson where it belongs,” the proclamation read.
The county commended and acknowledging Groves, the Oak Hill Academy administration and faculty, and the student body, “for creating an environment here in Grayson County [that is] worthy of the 2016 National High School Basketball Champions to call home.”
Individual award winners include:
• Academic Award — Brendan Cruz, student manager
• Highest FT percentage and Highest 3 Pt. FG percentage — Junior Guard Ty-Shon Alexander (verbal commitment to Creighton)
• Highest FG percentage and Most Outstanding Player — Senior Braxton Key (signed with Alabama)
• Most Assists and Coach’s Award – Junior Point Guard Matt Coleman
• Highest Rebound Average — Senior F/C Khadim Sy (signed with Virginia Tech)
In April, Smith said the game was a fitting ending to a season that started out with adversity. Joe Hampton, the leading player from their last season, pulled his ACL last fall and was lost for the season. Harry Giles, the number one recruit in the nation coming to Oak Hill, played for a minute and 58 seconds in their opening game against Moravian prep when he tore his ACL as well.
The other players responded to the loss of Hampton and Giles by winning 42 games in a row before losing to 22-Foot Academy of Greenville, S.C.
Smith said the eight-time national champion Warriors were ranked #1 in two different polls and #2 in four others, including USA Today.
Six seniors have signed Division I scholarships for next season, including Giles, Duke; Hampton, Penn State; Sy, Virginia Tech; Mario Kegler, Michigan State; Key, Alabama; and Rodney Miller, Miami, Fla.
Smith, who just surpassed the 1,000-win plateau at Oak Hill this season said in closing, “For our guys to accomplish what they have this season is amazing to me.”