Champions of the Orange and Black Classic for a second consecutive year were the SCHS boys (front row, from left) Bo Hess, Justin Faurot, Dylan Hutchins, Matthew Jenkins, Jess Drohman and Drew Duff. (Back row) assistant coach Brian Gentry, Kyle Cure, Trey O’Neil, Drake McRae, Chantz Yager, Brett Meyer, Sloan Baker, assistant coach Jordan Carter and head coach Glenn O’Neil.
By Rod Haxton, editor
Beavers survive late
run by Hays to claim
With most of his night spent guarding, or being guarded, by 6-foot-7 Brady Werth, Scott City’s Sloan Baker wasn’t necessarily looking for a big offensive game against Hays in the finals of the Orange and Black Classic.
But the SCHS senior made the most of his scoring opportunities -
in the paint and from beyond the arc.
The biggest basket in Baker’s nine-point effort may have come in the fourth quarter when Hays was on the verge of erasing a 10 point deficit. Scott City was protecting a 51-50 lead when senior guard Trey O’Neil drove to the right side of the basket and the ball kicked off the heel of the rim and back outside the cylinder. Baker, however, was already airborne, quickly grabbed the ball with both hands and put it back into the basket to give the Beavers a 53-50 cushion with 5:01 remaining.
“I was just thinking crash,” said the 6-foot-2 senior following Scott City’s 62-57 win over the Indians. “I’m always following Trey’s layups. He seldom misses, but every once in awhile it happens and I try to be there to put it back in.”
The followup basket by Baker and a driving layin by senior guard Brett Meyer put the Beavers back up by five, 55-50, with 4:25 remaining. O’Neil, who finished with a game high 29 points, added a clutch three-pointer nearly a minute later which extended the advantage to 60-54.
But Scott City never could rest easy even though they didn’t trail for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Hays cut the lead in half with a three-pointer at the 2:06 mark and had another opportunity to pull even following a pass by Baker that led to a turnover. The senior quickly redeemed himself with a steal at the other end of the floor with :55 left in the game.
The outcome was still up in the air when Scott City twice missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities that could have put the game away - with 34.1 seconds to play and again with 10.4 seconds.
Hays also came up empty on the two possessions that followed and O’Neil finally sealed the win with two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining.
“We played our most complete game of the year and we had to because Hays is so good,” says head coach Glenn O’Neil. “It was a consistent effort and everyone contributed, whether it was scoring or defense.”
After cruising into the championship game, the Beavers knew they were facing a formidable opponent in the Werth-led Indians who are ranked in Class 4A-Division I.
“Watching Hays (on Friday night) we could see they were definitely the bigger team and they might even be better than us,” said senior guard Chantz Yager. “We knew that to compete with them we’d have to show up with our best game.”
Both heavyweights were exchanging blows throughout the night. On three occasions, when one team drilled a three-pointer the other would answer with a trey. The three-point line was particularly big for the Beavers who drilled seven treys in the first half and were 9-of-21 for the game.
There were 10 lead changes in the first 12 minutes with the Indians taking their biggest lead, 28-24, following a three-point play with 3:51 remaining in the first half. Just when it appeared that Hays might be threatening to pull away, O’Neil - the tournament’s Most Valuable Player - scored nine unanswered points that showed his offensive versatility.
After hitting a short jumper, he drove the lane for a shot off the glass and moments later he finished off a coast-to-coast drive with another layup.
O’Neil’s scoring run ended with a three-pointer at the 1:49 mark that gave him 20 points in the first half.
But the Beavers weren’t done. With time running out in the half, an O’Neil pass to Yager who was alone in the corner resulted in another three-pointer just ahead of the buzzer and a 36-28 halftime lead.
“None of us are afraid to shoot,” said Yager. “Trey and Brett do such a good job of driving that Dylan (Hutchins) and I can sit out on the three-point line when they decide to dish it out.”
Adapt to Defense
After getting scorched from beyond the arc in the first half, Hays made some defensive adjustments during halftime. They extended the defensive pressure and were also face-guarding O’Neil to prevent him from getting good looks at the basket.
The Beavers responded with a backdoor cut by Bo Hess that resulted in an easy layup and a 38-28 advantage to open the second half. They also brought Baker from out of the paint and he responded with a three-point basket - his second of the tournament.
“At Sunday shootarounds I found that I could shoot threes better than I thought. Coach gave me the go-ahead, so I got a couple under my belt this weekend,” Baker said.
“You find ways to adjust to what a team is giving you. Our guys know how to pass and where the reads should be (against a zone defense) during a game,” said Coach O’Neil.
T. O’Neil and Meyer were able to take advantage of those opportunities with four and three assists, respectively.
Baker, who contributed seven points in the third period following a scoreless first half, hit a basket that gave the Beavers a 49-39 lead before the Indians were able to climb back into the game with a 9-0 scoring stretch that cut the lead to 49-48 early in the fourth period.
Despite hitting 4-of-7 from beyond the three-point line, O’Neil was also a thorn in the side of the Indians with his ability to penetrate and draw fouls when not dishing the ball to teammates for assists.
“I wouldn’t say we felt like we had to attack them inside, but we wanted to hit them from all over the place,” says T. O’Neil. “We don’t want to just be known as three-point shooters. We wanted to take it to the hole and challenge them in every aspect of the game.”
With Hays’ size advantage in the paint, rebounds didn’t come easy for the Beavers. Sophomore Bo Hess was the team leader with seven boards while Meyer finished with six rebounds to go along with his 11 points.
After scoring his team’s first two baskets, Werth was limited to 19 points for the night.
“I worked hard to front him the best I could,” Baker said. “He still had a good game, but we needed to hold him to a good game, not a great game, and I think we did that.”
“The kids from both teams competed hard,” added Coach O’Neil. “This is what a championship game is supposed to look like.”
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