The schedule-makers weren’t doing Oberlin coach Kurt Russell’s team any favors when they drew up this portion of the 2018 game slate.
Over the course of the past two weeks, his Phoenix varsity boys have faced the top two teams in both the Stars (Wellington, Keystone) and the Stripes (Clearview, Fairview) divisions of the Patriot Athletic Conference. The run of conference leaders has taken its toll — despite their hard work, the boys have dropped four of their past five contests.
Sandwiched between the games against top contenders, the Phoenix traveled to Black River for a mid-week tilt. And despite trailing nearly the entire game, Oberlin closed the game on a 20-0 run to sail past the Pirates, 56-47.
While the entire team tightened up on the defensive end and forced several late turnovers, the Phoenix took control behind 22 points from the hot hand of Devan Yarber. He had considerable help from Darian Taylor (13) and Aaron Hopkins (12).
“It was good to see our team not quit when we got down early,” Russell said. “Black River is an improving team and it took everything we had to climb back into the game and pull out the win. Credit the boys and our senior leadership for picking us up and bringing home the victory.”
Prior to a home game Friday against Stars leader Wellington, Oberlin celebrated its seniors — players Jeremiah Austin, Marcquis Aguiniga Moore, Darian Taylor, and Devan Yarber; and cheer team members India Brown and Hallie Kenney and cheer team manager Imani Whitworth.
A packed house witnessed a close contest with the fired-up Phoenix hanging tough, countering the Dukes’ height advantage with up-tempo play and aggressive defense.
Down 30-27 at the half, Oberlin flirted with taking the outright lead early in the third quarter before the Dukes got hot and pushed the lead out to double digits.
At the line, where Wellington converted 23 of 28 free throws compared to just 13 of 21 made by the Phoenix.
Yarber and Taylor again led Oberlin as each dropped in 16 points on the night.
Oberlin (7-12, 5-8 PAC) has two more away conference games remaining on its regular season schedule (Lutheran West on Friday and Columbia on Feb. 23) before the state sectional tournament begins.
Oberlin, seeded sixth in its district, will square off against the Lake Ridge Royals in first round action at home at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb 27.