By Dave Morrison

NEW RICHMOND – Oak Hill literally stole one Tuesday night.

In a place where the Red Devils have struggled historically, Class AA No. 5 Oak Hill’s Andrew Work came up with a steal and then a buzzer-beating put back on the other end in a 54-53 win over Wyoming East.

It was another nail biter between the two teams that are expected to vie for the Class AA Region 3, Section 1 title next month.

The win gives Oak Hill an early lead to get the top seed in the section, although the sectional is played a the neutral Raleigh County Convention Center (Armory).

Oak Hill (10-2) had to pull out all the stops to get by a Wyoming East team that led by as many as 10 early in the third and by four with under a minute remaining.

Oak Hill’s Andrew Work

Wyoming East coach Derek Brooks has seen this movie before. And he is tired of the ending.

Last year Oak Hill beat Wyoming East 57-56 in New Richmond and 64-60 at Oak Hill.

“We’ve controlled those games pretty much 25 to 30 minutes and then let it slip away in the end,” Brooks said. “It’s felt like that almost every time we’ve faced them.”

On Tuesday night, it was the final minute that decide the game. Things looked dire for the Red Devils when Jake Bishop completed an old-fashioned three-point play with :48.6 remaining to give the Warriors a 53-49 lead.

On the other end Jason Manns answered with a long 3 pointer with 18 seconds left to cut the lead to 53-52.

With time ticking down, and Oak Hill employing a trapping defense that had caused Wyoming East some problem in the final two minutes, the Warriors ran into their biggest problem.

Andrew Work and Abe Farrow’s speed.

“We had to get a steal down by one so I had to play on the backside,” Work said. “I intercepted it, got the steal and threw it up the court to Abe (Farrow).”

Only, the ball was over Farrow’s head and headed toward the doors leading o the cafeteria. Farrow went after the ball but McQuade Canada smartly tried to step in front of him to allow the ball to go out of bounds. But Farrow got through the pick, and was somehow able to get to the ball and, going out of bounds, throw it back to teammate Darrick McDowell.

“I didn’t see it,” Oak Hill coach Benitez Jackson said. “I thought we turned the ball over. I was stomping my foot and ducking my head down. I told one of our coaches when I turned around that I couldn’t believe Abraham caught up with the ball.”

McDowell missed a look inside but Work was on the on the other side, out-leaping everyone for the ball and putting it in with two seconds left to give Oak Hill the victory.

“He’s done that for us,” Jackson said. “That’s probably the fourth (game winner) he’s hit in two years. We know what we will get out of him. I was glad to see when he got the ball in his hands. He was able to crash the boards hard and used his athleticism to go back up.”

“He’s got a knack for the ball too,” Brooks said. “He knew what the situation was in the game so he was going after it, whether he fouled or not, he was going to go get it. That’s the chance you’ve got to take with what, three seconds left? If you jump over somebody and get a foul so what, because you have to have that basket to win the game. He did what he had to do to get it and put it in.”

Work, said of all the game winners he’s had in his career, Tuesday’s was tops.

Wyoming East’s R.J. Hood

“I’d say this was my favorite because it was such a hyped game against a good team and a sectional opponent,” Work said

Jackson admitted his team was outplayed for most of the night.

“I don’t think we played particularly our best game but a lot of that goes to (Wyoming East) and how they played,” Jackson said. “I thought Wyoming East played really hard and out-toughed us in a lot of areas. But I was proud of the kids and how they played until the end.  In the huddle, even in the second quarter when they went on a run they were saying, ‘We’ve got it. We’ve got it.’ I was happy we didn’t hang our heads. We hung around and caught a break there at the end.”

Oak Hill led 7-0 early but two key 9-0 runs helped the Warriors take control.

The first started and the end of the first and continued in the second when Canada had back-to-back 3s and Hood added another to erase a 20-13 Oak Hill lead.

Near the end of the first half, another 9-0 run, featuring Hood’s fifth 3 of the half, gave Wyoming East its first double-figure lead, 36-26. Work scored the final basket of the half, but Bishop started the second half with a basket that restored the 10-point Warriors lead.

Wyoming. East held a 46-40 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Work ended up scoring six of the Red Devils final nine points. Wyoming East was held to seven points in the fourth quarter, 17 in the second half.

Work led Oak Hill with 24 and ended the night eight points shy of hitting 1,000 for his career, an impressive feat, after missing 10 games as a sophomore with an injury. He was going for that Saturday at No. 2 Fairmont.

It was Hood’s best game since returning from a hand injury. He had 19 points to lead Wyoming East.

Oak Hill limited Hood and Canada to two points each in the second half.

“They played me tighter in the second half and I couldn’t get anything off of it,” Hood said. “They played better defense in the second half for sure.”

Canada and Bishop added 10 each.

“We’ve got to play harder toward the end of the game,” Hood said. “We had a couple of key turnovers that shouldn’t have happened. We should have just held the ball. The possession was ours if it had been a jump ball. We just have to play smarter.”

The two teams will meet again tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 30) in the Big Atlantic Classic. The game tips at 5:30 p.m. at the Armory.

Oak Hill 54, Wyoming East 53

Oak Hill (10-2)

Andrew Work 10 4-6 24, Michael Beasley 4 0-0 8, Abe Farrow 0 0-0 0, Phixeous Gray 0 0-0 0, Dante Billeter 3 0-0 9, Jason Manns 1 0-0 3, Khori Bass 0 0-0 0, Darrick McDowell 4 2-2 10. TOTALS: 22 6-8 54.

Wyoming East (5-9)

Chase York 3 2-3 8, R.J. Hood 7 0-0 19, Caden Lookabill 0 0-0 0, McQuade Canada 3 2-3 10, Evan Preece 0 2-2 2, Jacob Bishop 4 2-3 10, Anthony Martin 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 19 8-11 53

Oak Hill                     20        8      12      14   –  54

Wyoming East          16      20      10       7   –   53

Three-point field goals – OH: 4 (Billeter 3, Manns) WE: 7 (Hood 5, Canada 2). Fouled out – None