It’s tough to win on the road, especially when it’s against your rival.
St. Francis Catholic matched Oak Hall’s physicality but a late spurt helped lead the visiting Eagles to a 48-44 win in a 2A-District 4 game.
After the Wolves (4-14, 0-3) got within four, 41-37, on a basket by senior Tyler Day with 3:56 to play, the Eagles (13-2, 6-0) answered with a 3-pointer by junior Jackson Beach for a 44-37 lead with 2:52 remaining.
Oak Hall made four free throws in the final 1:37 to stay unbeaten in district play.
“I didn’t think we played as well as we can play but I think a lot of that was due to St. Francis and the way they were playing, just real physical and real tough, and they were just beating us to loose balls,” said Oak Hall coach Monte Towe. “But somehow we were able to survive.”
Oak Hall junior Andrew Powell, who had a team-high 13 points, made a couple of big shots down the stretch, including a 3-pointer with 6:03 left in the game for a 39-35 lead and a bucket with 5:09 remaining for a 41-35 lead.
The Wolves didn’t give up, closing the gap to four again, 45-41, with 43 seconds remaining on another basket by Day (12 points).
“We fought hard and we defended well but we had some stretches that we couldn’t score,” said first-year St. Francis coach Larry Walker. “We’re a young team but we’re starting to build some chemistry. The effort is there.”
Beach had seven of his 11 points in the first half as the Eagles headed to the break with a 28-22 lead.
“He’s done a wonderful job,” Towe said. “We’ve won a lot of games with him as our point guard.”
It looked like the Eagles might pull away in the first half.
Following a pair of free throws by Day to tie the game at 19-apiece, Oak Hall went on an 8-0 run and took a 27-19 lead on a 3-pointer by junior Ryan McKinney.
However, a 3-pointer by senior Cole Reddig (team-high 14 points) got the Wolves within five, 27-22, before the Eagles’ Gavin Jones hit 1-of-2 free throws with 2.2 seconds left in the half for a 6-point lead at intermission.
“Any time you win on the road it’s a good win,” Towe said. “I’m really happy for our kids, we’re making a lot of progress, we’ve won a lot of games, but we’ve got to play better.”
After a tough early season schedule, things are starting to come together for St. Francis.
“We’re playing hard, we defended well and rebounded, but we just need to work on half court execution a little bit more and we’ll be fine,” Walker said. “We fought and had some mental toughness. We’re becoming more of a complete team now.”
Oak Hall will travel to Branford on Friday at 7:30 p.m., while St. Francis will host Gainesville Christian Community on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Oak Hall 53, St. Francis Catholic 19 (Girls) – Defense set the tone early for the Lady Eagles, who held the host Wolves to just one field goal the entire first half.
Oak Hall outscored St. Francis Catholic, 28-5, in the opening half and cruised to a 53-19 win in a Class 2A-District 4 game.
Senior guard Kate Pickens scored eight of her game-high 19 points in the first quarter as she single-handily outscored St. Francis by halftime.
Also in double figures was junior guard Mary Pizzurro (12 points), who made a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and scored nine second half points.
“When those two are on like that, we’re tough to beat,” said Oak Hall coach Eric Ringdahl.
The Lady Eagles (12-6, 5-0) led 41-7 with over three minutes to play in the third quarter but didn’t force a running clock until they took a 51-16 lead with a little over five minutes to play in the game.
“I feel like tonight we did a better job on the boards, I think we were very aggressive, and defensively we had some really high points,” Ringdahl said.
Lexy Bhatia scored 17 of her team’s 19 points in the loss for St. Francis (10-7, 0-2), which will play at Union County (Lake Butler) on Friday at 6 p.m.
Oak Hall will travel to Fort White on Friday at 6 p.m.