Posted On: 12/2/17 6:53 PM
Oak Hill Academy (4-0) easily dispatched Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (HHCA) Friday night at the Marshall County Hoopfest, 84-63. The score masks an even more lopsided first half display from a monstrous Oak Hill squad. HHCA scored 23 points in the final quarter to make the game a blowout instead of the massive blowout the first half implied was coming.
The Hawks (6-2) did not give their best fight to one of the nation’s top teams, but what can be plucked from the game as takeaways? What seeps through the boxscore to stick as a lesson learned?
Emotional investment and bravery are hard to quantify, but clearly HHCA lacked both in the first quarter. When Oak Hill hopped out 6-0, HHCA Head Coach Zach Ferrell called a needed timeout. It did not help.
Oak Hill Academy continued to pummel HHCA by feeding David McCormack (Kansas signed) without reluctance. HHCA does have two centers (Jason Jitoboh, Uros Plasvic), both of which looked on paper capable of providing some formidable defense.
The difference between paper and practice was staggering. McCormack scored 20 points and HHCA felt all of them early like body blows to their pride.
The playmaking ability from the Hamilton Heights Christian Academy wings completely failed. This one was tough to see, as the average height and athleticism of HHCA continues to be a big part of their success. At the wing positions especially, HHCA boasts staggering size.
Maybe the moment caught them or maybe they didn’t see lanes or openings to score.
Regardless of the reason, HHCA found almost no scoring or even creating from the vaunted wings (until Tre Edwards in the closing moments). Kevaughn Ellis, one of the best Class of 2018 players in the state of Tennessee scored a mere four points. Jordan Rawls scored three, all in the final quarter. These are your starting guards against possibly the best team HHCA will play all year and they combined for seven points in an uptempo game.
Down 54-29 midway through the third quarter, HHCA Head Coach Ferrell inserted Yannick Le Guenne. It really helped the offensive flow.
Samson Ruzhentzev, on the first possession after what amounted to the Hawks’ best ball movement of the night, hit a three-pointer. The ball moved inside and came back out, swinging around to Ruzhentzev.
Is this the best unit? Not necessarily, but in less than a minute Le Guenne solved the stagnating offense.
The aforementioned three-pointer set Samson Ruzhentzev off a nice scoring surge.
He scored two straight drives late in the third quarter. Even if the game was out of hand, Ruzhentzev hunted each and every scoring opportunity.
He has a little hot blood and hunger. The Russian import attacking with an unfamiliar confidence in the third quarter. The Hawks lacked that fire early and it cost them the game. Still Samson proved something to the college coaches in attendance.
Samson Ruzhentzev almost hit an off-balanced triple as the third quarter closed, 62-40 Oak Hill Academy on top.
Oak Hill (84) Keyontae Johnson 24; Hemmings 3; Richardson 6; Keldon Johnson 16; Calloo 5; Kayouloud 3; Ahemed; E. Johnson 4; Mack 3; McCormack 20 Three point goals: (5) Keyontae Johnson 1; Hemmings 1; Keldon JOhnson 1; Kayouloud 1; Mack 1; Record 4-0 Hamilton Heights 63: Ellis 4; Rawls 3; Wheza Panzo 12; Tre Edwards 12; Gilgeous-Alexander; Ambrose; Sam Ruzhentsev 11; LeGuenne; Jitoboh 3; Uros Plavsic 16 Other Highlights: Plavsic 8 rebounds Record: 6-2 Box Score Oak Hill (84) 25 24 13 22 Hamiton Heights (63) 14 12 14 23
It can be easy to forget, glaring at all that potential, that players like Jason Jitoboh and Uros Plavsic are not “there” yet. The HHCA centers were severely outplayed at the Hoopfest.
David McCormack is a different kind of big. Jason Jitobah hit the bench early with foul trouble. Facing David McCormack in the opening quarter, Jitobah was completely overwhelmed. His feet didn’t slide fast enough and despite his heft he looked weaker than McCormack.
It was a very big stage for Jitobah and it reminds that as far as the young man has come physically and with his skill development he remains a project. He will get there, but Friday was a really frustrating display of his potential.
Uros Blazic has a beautiful stroke. He is not currently capable of bodying a HM big at this moment. David McCormack is not a common man. Still, the significant challenge was not met by Uros Friday night either.
Jordan Rawls earned his starting point guard position. He studied under Shai Alexander and improved quietly in the shadows. With great power comes great responsibility though and Rawls underperformed Friday night.
He can get it back. There are not five teams in America better than Oak Hill Academy. It was admittedly a big stage for the first-year starter. And he has skills that translate. But under no illusions can this particular game be labeled a singular success for Rawls. He was outplayed.
Though the window will be narrowly ajar, flat performances can lead to upheaval in the pecking order. As mentioned above Le Guenne moved the basketball better and the passing was more crisp when he found minutes. It must be said the game was wide open (20 pt differnce) at that point. And Le Guenne simply cannot play at the same pace as Rawls, who is accustomed to the elite high school speed of play already.
But somebody has to be better in those enormous moments. Rawls? Le Guenne? Do you put Ellis on the ball? Can Thomasi Gilgeous-Alexander play point guard?
HHCA lists him as a 6-foot-5 point guard. It is unclear, but the solution to a timid, non-probing offense must be found.
Despite the deeply critical glance at the HHCA showing they are one of the best teams in the state. HHCA has uncommon length, high-character, bouncy hoopers. The coach is tremendous and don’t forget the team already won six games. This game does not define the team, but it certainly exposed some weaknesses.
For the best analysis on basketball teams and players in the state of Tennessee stay locked on to @PrepHoopsTN.