Oak Mountain closes season with redemption win at Helena

Published 10:49 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

HELENA – Despite a valiant comeback attempt by the Helena Huskies with several late made 3-pointers, the Oak Mountain Eagles were able to get some redemption to close out the regular season on Friday, Feb. 1, by picking up a 43-36 road win to get payback for a 50-48 loss earlier this season.

The Huskies hit three big 3-pointers in the final few minutes after falling behind by 13 points, as they looked to pull off a senior-night victory in front of the home crowd, but in the final minute of the game, Oak Mountain was able to knock down six consecutive free throws to pull off the victory.

The opening period of the game featured a solid first four minutes for the visiting Eagles followed by an answer from the Huskies in the second half of the quarter, particularly in the final two minutes.

Oak Mountain opened the game on a 5-1 run off a 3-pointer from Drew Dunn and an offensive put back from Antheny Carey. That was eventually extended to a 9-3 run after Noah Young hit a 3-pointer from the corner.

The Huskies were having trouble adjusting to Oak Mountain’s defensive sideline traps in the front court. Any time the ball went to a Helena player on either sideline, the Eagles were quick to swarm.

Eventually, however, that gave Helena some opportunities at open baskets and the Huskies capitalized hitting back-to-back 3-pointers from Parker King and Matthew Hobbick, as the two seniors had quickly tied the game at 9-9 at the end of the first quarter.

To open the second quarter, the Huskies improved their 6-0 run to an 8-0 run to grab their first lead of the game at 11-9.

Oak Mountain’s Will Shaver, however, had an immediate answer with a 3-pointer to quickly give the Eagles their lead back. But Hobbick answered that with his second big 3-pointer of the game to put Helena on top 14-12.

Zane Nelson was the only answer Oak Mountain needed the rest of the half. The Eagles’ defense got back to its hounding ways and made any shot difficult to come by for the Huskies, while Nelson hit a 3-pointer before pump faking and driving baseline for a layup two possessions later to put his team back in front at 17-14 heading to the half.

While Helena was able to come out of the locker room and cut the lead to one point after two free throws from Hobbick, offense was tough to come by for the Huskies in the third quarter.

Those two free throws from Hobbick were the only two points the Huskies scored in the period.

While it wasn’t easy for Oak Mountain to score points either, the Eagles were at least able to take advantage of the tough sledding by Helena.

Evan Smith hit two baskets, including an and-1, while Shaver also played well in the frame to allow for the Eagles to end the period on a 9-0 run and take a 26-16 advantage into the fourth.

The offensive struggles for both teams continued into the final period in large part thanks to great defense at the basket from both teams.

That played largely into Oak Mountain’s favor as it seemed a 10-point deficit would be tough for either team to overcome.

Nelson hit the first basket early in the quarter to extend that lead to 12 points, but Hobbick finally put Helena’s first basket of the half on the board shortly after that.

Over the next three minutes, however, the Huskies struggled to find the bottom of the basket again.

While the Eagles again didn’t light up the scoreboard, they scored three points over the next couple of minutes to extend the lead to the largest of the game at 13 points with just less than four minutes left.

The Huskies did answer with a 3-0 run, picking up three free throws, to cut the deficit back to 10 with three minutes remaining.

That was a lead that held up until Daunte Cave hit a crucial 3-pointer with 1:54 left to play to trim Oak Mountain’s lead to 33-26. After Nelson hit 1-2 at the line on the other end, Helena came right back with a quick 3-pointer from Caden Pierce off a beautiful hand off pass to continue to chip away at the lead.

Now up by just five points at 34-29, Young stepped to the line and calmly sank two free throws followed by one of two from Dunn after Pierce, possibly the Helena’s best 3-point shooter, fouled out.

That extended the Eagles’ lead back to eight points at 37-29.

The Huskies still had one more answer left in them when senior Ryan Lewis hit another 3-pointer shortly after to make it a five-point game yet again with 1:11 left.

Oak Mountain, however, has been one of the county’s best free throw shooting teams this season and that was proven yet again as the Eagles hit six consecutive free throws in the final minute from Nelson, young and Smith to ice the game.

The Eagles were led by 12 points from Zane Nelson in a balanced attack that saw seven different players score in a low-scoring contest.

Helena got 12 points from Cave, while Hobbick posted 10 points. While the seniors, including Hobbick, King, Christian Wolf, Lewis, Nate Andrews, Jonah Hyde and Jacob Redman had hoped to pull off a win on senior night, they’ll look for the bigger prize of winning the area tournament in the next week.