Note: This preview appears in the Wednesday, Nov. 27 newspaper on Page B1.
OAK HILL — Oak Hill has made it a habit of making it to the Convocation Center in Athens for district tournament action under head coach Norm Persin.
That level of expectation took a small bump in the road last season after it fell to Ironton in a Division III sectional final, finishing the season at 19-5.
However, the Oaks are prepared to uphold the standard and get back to where they belong. But they’ll do so without 1,000 point scorer Mason Darby who graduated.
“He was the guy who did a lot of things on the court for us because of his experience,” Persin said. “He was the only starter last year who was back from the team we had that won conference titles and a district title as well. Last year was a really nice year and we have a lot of guys returning, but we have to find that guy to replace what Darby brought to the table with his scoring and leadership.”
Although he made not handle the ball like Darby did, the Oaks are fortunate to bring back Chase Hammond in the post, who was a 20-point, 12-rebound per game player last season.
“He was lights out for us last year and that was following a year of limited playing time as a sophomore,” Persin said. “He’s our go-to guy, and I believe he’s one of the top guys in the Southeast district. He’s proved that last year and he’s taken his game to another level over the summer.”
Drew Hanning and Keaton Potter are both returning to the starting lineup, and Persin is looking at those two guys to be a huge part in replacing what Darby left behind.
“Drew has excellent ball skills, can get to the rim and shoot the ball very well,” Persin said. “He’s a guy who is stepping into that leadership role and really taking control of things. Keaton is a year older and a year better. His focus needs to be a little better and once he gets there, he’ll really take off.”
Jordan Morgan, Erik Kallner, Landon Hines, Luke Stewart and Noah Donley will be other major contributing players on this senior-heavy Oak Hill team.
“We have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball and make shots, but at the same point, they have to be more consistent,” Persin said. “It can’t just be one kid one night and then another kid another night. This has to be a group effort on a regular basis.”
Oak Hill faces a tough road ahead, not just in conference with Wheelersburg and Waverly, but also non-conference with games against Point Pleasant, Dawson-Bryant and Wooster.
Persin understands that Oak Hill has a lot of talent and experience this year, which is why the Oaks have set the goals high.
“We’ve built a pretty good program and we know that every team is gunning for us one way or another,” Persin said. “We won the conference two out of the last three years, and we want to win it again. Despite the fact that Wheerlersburg and Waverly lost big time player, they always reload and it’ll be no different. Anyone in the conference can knock you off at anytime, so it’s going to be tough. After that, it’s about advancing as far as possible in the tournament.”
Oak Hill opens up its season on the road on Tuesday, December 3 at Wellston.