For the second consecutive year, Oberlin’s hoops heroes traveled to the Lorain County Holiday Classic to do battle against local powerhouse schools.
Coach Kurt Russell believes joining Lorain and Elyria (Division 1) and Sandusky (Division 2) gives his Division 4 Phoenix valuable experience against bigger opponents with a faster style of play.
Oberlin lost 60-48 in the opener to the Sandusky Blue Streaks and 65-44 to the Elyria Pioneers in the consolation finals. The Lorain Titans took home the title for the sixth year running with a 67-57 win in the championship game.
Against the Blue Streaks, Oberlin defended aggressively early on, contesting most every Sandusky attempt. When the Oberlin jumpers began to fall in the second quarter, they found a 10-point lead off a 14-0 spurt, which was trimmed to six, 27-21, at the half. The Phoenix were led by senior Justin Smith with 17 points while senior Devan Yarber added 10, Trajen Chambers nine, Aaron Hopkins eight, and Giles Harrell four.
The Blue Streaks’ height and size advantage showed up in earnest during the third quarter under the boards. Sandusky kicked off an 18-2 run, reversing the tide and taking command at 43-34. Over the course of the contest, the Blue Streaks out-rebounded the smaller Phoenix, 52-26.
Oberlin hung around, closing the gap to seven during the fourth quarter, but could not claw all the way back before the final whistle closed the action.
“We definitely struggled in the second half. Our rebounding positioning was a bit off, and we need to continue working on our free throws,” Russell said — Oberlin was a mere 11-for-25 from the charity stripe. “Additionally, once some of our shooters cooled, they became reluctant to put it up. It’s all part of the development process — a work in progress.”
In the second game, the Pioneers controlled the run of play much of the game, taking a 28-22 lead at the break en route to a 65-44 victory. Oberlin again struggled to connect consistently, shooting 31 percent from the field, although Smith was solid from beyond the arc, connecting on five three-pointers as part of his 19-point night. The Phoenix did improve from the line, converting 13 of 17 attempts.
The tournament “was a great opportunity for our team to battle against some of the top tier teams in the area,” Russell said. “It was disappointing, in the second half of both games, we came out flat and became stagnant on offense. We have to do a better job trusting one another and it begins with both the coaching and the senior leadership.”
Oberlin (3-5, 2-2 in PAC) gets back into conference action hosting Lutheran West on Friday night.