Friday, February 10, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Loss to Oak Hill is one Galax will never forget

GALAX - They lost big. We should probably get that out of the way first. Any hopes of some sort of miracle upset disappeared sometime in the second quarter amid a flurry of dunks and fast breaks.

Still, the Galax players were unanimous: This was a night they'll never forget - for all the right reasons.

Oak Hill Academy, ranked No. 1 in the USA Today national high school poll, left this gym the way it leaves most gyms: with a decisive victory. The final was Oak Hill 112, Galax 54. But for the defending GroupA Division I champions, just having a night to play against the best was among the highlights of their careers.

"We'll see 'em on TV next year and will get to say we played against these guys," Galax guard Austin Pack said. "It was a fun experience. It was awesome."

Oak Hill has built its 37-0 record and lofty ranking by winning in Oregon and Kentucky and many places in between. Just this week, the school announced that the Warriors will be taking a basketball tour of China next month.

But the driving distance for this road trip? A mere 27 miles.

Several of the Galax players have attended camps conducted by Oak Hill coach Steve Smith. Growing up, Pack and others made frequent trips to Mouth of Wilson to see stars such as Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony and Nolan Smith.

So there wasn't any question these guys knew what they were up against.

"We know we can't stop their alley-oops and all that," Galax coach Verl Brown said a few hours before the game. "We just needed to be pushed hard."

They were. The school that produced the likes Kevin Durant, Josh Smith and Jerry Stackhouse even impressed in warm-ups - throwing balls off the glass and dunking them, bouncing them high at the free-throw line to create one-man lob passes, dribbling behind their backs and between their legs.

The pregame introductions were a little different, too.

"No. 1 ... UCLA-bound ... Jordan Adams!"

"No. 2 ... N.C. State-bound ... Tyler Lewis!"

The gym was packed long before tipoff. Parking was a challenge. Neighbors could have sold spots on their lawns had they wished and made a hefty sum.

The upper bleachers, which aren't even pulled out a lot of nights, were full.

"I've never seen a crowd here like this before," Galax's Travis Garvey said.

They came to see the greatness of Oak Hill, sure, but they also came to see what their Group A powerhouse could do in the ultimate David role. And for a while, the Maroon Tide was doing plenty. Oak Hill led just 15-12 five minutes in. At the end of the first quarter, the score was a very respectable 25-17.

"I think we did a good job playing against men that play basketball year-round," Pack said. "I mean, we got blown out, but we were working on stuff to use against Page [County] or Luray."

Said Galax post player Lawrence Parsons: "I think it'll make us better."

Oak Hill sure seemed to bring out the best in Parsons, who scored a team-high 20 points working inside against 7-foot Purdue signee A.J. Hammons and other beefy post players.

For a guy who's double-teamed almost every time he touches the ball in "normal" games, Parsons enjoyed the space he got against Oak Hill's man defense.

"Tonight he shot the ball in the paint; we've been asking for that all year," Brown said. "It was good to see him being offensive-minded."

Other Galax highlights included Pack, who scored 10 points, as well as Deion George (eight points) and Devonte McKinney (seven).

As you'd expect, most of the fireworks came from Oak Hill, which finished with seven dunks. Adams scored 27, while Georgetown-bound guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera tallied 24.

"Coming in, we were kind of scared from the hype and everything, but we learned that we could play with them for a little while," Garvey said. "Hopefully, we can keep that going for the rest of the season."

They know one thing for sure: They won't see anybody better.

OAK HILL (37-0)

Adams 9 8-8 27, Lews 2 8-8 12, Smith-Rivera 8 5-6 24, Clark 2 0-0 4, Hall 5 1-4 11, Talbott 2 0-0 4, Wilson 6 4-4- 16, Hammons 3 1-3 7, Curington 1 4-4 6, Iroegbu 1 0-0 2, Totals 39 31-37 112.

GALAX (19-2)

Parsons 9 2-2 20, Pack 4 0-0 10, Hanks 0 0-0 0, George 3 2-2 8, McKinney 3 1-2 7, Quesenberry 1 1-2 4, Garvey 0 0-0 0, Peoples 00-0 0, Fisher 2 1-1 5, Totals 22 7-9 54.

Oak Hill 25 28 35 24-112

Galax 17 14 10 13-54

3-point-goals - Oak Hill 3 (Smith-Rivera 2, Adams), Galax 3 (Pack 2, Quesenberry). Total fouls - Oak Hill 12, Galax 22. Technical foul - Oak Hill bench.

JV - Galax won 41-38.

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