ESSEX -- Tyler Cookson iced four free throws late in the fourth quarter to lift Oran over Richland on Thursday, 74-67 in a big Class 1A, District 2 matchup at Richland High School.
The win ends a two-game losing streak for the Eagles, who improve to 15-6.
"We needed to get out of this with a win," said Oran head coach Mitch Wood. "We're trying to work towards peaking at the end of the season. Right now everybody is getting back healthy, and everybody is getting back to playing their roles. That's what we've got to have."
Richland's defense ran a box-and-one, then a triangle-and-two, but the Eagles were still able to put up 74 points.
Patrick Friga was the main benefactor of Oran's excellent ball movement, leading the way with 19 points.
Ryne Wood finished with 14, hitting 9-of-9 free throws. Nathan Seyer scored 12, Matt Seyer contributed 11 and Cookson finished with 10.
"Like I've said all year, we can play with people that run a box-and-one, or a triangle-and-two," said Wood. "I've got five kids that can play basketball, and we never have a kid out there that can't do something. I really feel confident in the other kids right now."
Richland standout Sherome Cole was nearly unstoppable, scoring a game-high 35 points. Josh McMullin finished with 16.
Oran held an 11-point lead with a little over four minutes left. Richland coach Jimmy Lincoln started substituting defensive players for offensive players after every possession, and the strategy worked.
The Rebels hit 10-of-15 free throws, then Cole hit a 3-pointer and scored a layup to shave Oran's lead down to three.
"I told the fellas we had to score with the clock out," said Lincoln. "We wanted to take the ball to the basket and make (Oran) take a charge. That allowed us to rotate people in and out without burning timeouts. It doesn't always work -- some teams will step out of the way, give you a layup and make you call timeout. Oran's defense isn't going to give up anything easy."
With Nathan Seyer and Joey Bickings on the bench with five fouls, Wood was not surprised by the late Richland comeback. "They've got three good shooters," said Wood. "I've got three real good defensive players, and two of them were on the bench for the last two minutes. You're going to have a chance to comeback and get something done like that. I definitely wasn't surprised. We just wanted to get out of here with a win, and that's what we did."
With 15 seconds left in the game, Oran held a shaky three-point lead. Richland's Sherome Cole attempted to tie the score with trey, but missed the goal entirely.
Richland was forced to foul, sending Cookson to the free throw line on two occasions. Cookson connected on all four attempts to preserve the victory.
"I felt like our kids played hard, but we've got to win one of those," said Lincoln. "Right now we're getting kind of down with our record. The effort is there, and that's all I can ask for. One of these nights we're going to catch a break hopefully."
The hard-luck Rebels fall to 8-12 and will host Clarkton tonight. Oran will travel to Advance on Tuesday.
"We're not getting over that hump right now, but the most important part of the season is still coming," said Lincoln. "One of the top two or three seeds is going to get us in the first round (of the district tournament) and they're not going to be happy about it."