(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
ORAN -- A raucous first half gave way to patience and the all-important free throw line during the Oran Eagles' semifinal contest against the Advance Hornets on Thursday as the second-seeded Hornets pulled away late for a 68-58 victory during the Oran Invitational Tournament.
Advance will play the three-time defending champion Scott County Central Braves tonight at 8 p.m. in the title game.
"You can take your hat off to Advance. They played hard and played well and we tried to make a run and they answered it," Oran coach Joe Shoemaker said. "They did the things they needed to do to win it."
Both teams came out of the gate at a blinding pace. They stormed the other side of the court at full speed no matter what happened on the other end, which led to a 14-14 tie at the end of the first quarter.
"At times we can get a little out of control," Advance coach Andrew Halford said. "We can still push the ball patiently and move the ball to find good stuff on offense. But, it wasn't anything easy when we scored because they'd come right back at us.
"It was a good, early season game between two good teams."
The Eagles (1-1) began the second quarter, however, on a small run behind junior Kody Moore.
Oran out-paced the Hornets 12-5 to begin the second half with Moore scoring eight of their points which included two 3-pointers.
Advance stormed back just minutes later with a 9-2 run to tie it again, but Moore, who had a game-high 27 points on mostly six 3-pointers, hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night to give his Eagles a 31-28 edge with 3:12 left in the first half.
Unfortunately for Oran, they went on a scoring drought that spilled over into the third quarter. Advance took advantage by closing out the first half with seven unanswered points to lead 35-31 at the break.
Oran pulled to within two points during the third quarter following a bucket and then a steal by Seth Ressel with 1:35 left in the frame, but that was as close as they would come to overtaking the lead again.
After Ressel's steal and layup, Advance (2-0) rattled off eight-straight points until Moore finally put one in for the Eagles with 4:15 left in the game.
Although Shoemaker isn't sure if it was the case or not, Oran's scoring droughts may have directed from the torrid pace of the first half.
"I'm not sure if it did or didn't," said Shoemaker. "We don't have a very deep bench and we got in a little bit of foul trouble, which didn't help."
Halford credits Oran's inability to put points on the board at times to his defense.
"I thought our defense was solid," Halford said. "We worked through screens and got our hands up and I think that affected them."
Advance converted on 11 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter that kept them ahead of the third-seeded Eagles during the final minutes of the game.
"A lot of it was our patience on offense and taking care of the basketball," Halford said. "Getting fouled and getting to the free throw line and knocking them down was good too."
Advance was led in scoring by Layne Below who poured in 22 points. Below scored 12 of his team-leading 22 during the fourth quarter while going 6 for 8 from the free throw line during that frame as well.
Oran will play Malden in the third-place game tonight at 6:30 p.m.
ORAN (58) -- Kody Moore 27, Seth Ressel 7, Blake Carlyle 2, Alex Heuring 10, Blake Henson 4, Adam Schaefer 7. FG 21 FT 9-16 F 20 (3-pointers: Moore 6, Schaefer 1. Fouled out: Carlyle)
ADVANCE (68) -- Tyler Middleton 4, Aaron Veale 2, Hunter Wilson 12, Layne Below 22, Trey Wallace 2, Jacob Spears 2, Curtis Gilliland 8, Ethan Barr 16. FG 25 FT 16-28 F 16 (3-pointers: Middleton 1, Wilson 1. Fouled out: none.)