DAYTON — The Wayne Warriors opened their District final contest at UD Arena against the Oak Hills Highlanders at a blistering pace and cruised to a 68-54 win to advance to the regional semifinals.
Wayne’s quickness and intensity were a little more than Oak Hills bargained for as the Warriors scored 14 points before the Highlanders could even get on the scoreboard. At the end of the first period, Wayne stood tall leading 16-2.
Oak Hills opened the second period with increased intensity on defense and its offense on fire, scoring 5 unanswered points, drawing to within 9 points at 16-7. L’Christian “Blue” Smith put an end to the Oak Hills run by taking the ball strong down the lane and laying it off the glass. Smith was a force on the offensive and defensive glass, pulling down 5 rebounds and scoring 5 second-chance points in the first half.
“I thought we played a great first half and that starts on the defensive end for us,” Wayne Coach Nathan Martindale said. “I felt like we did a really nice job of not giving them any good looks. Coach Price does a great job with his kids and they are extremely well coached. I felt like L’Christian Smith played extremely well tonight from start to finish for us. He is a versatile player and I feel like he showed that tonight.”
Wayne fans had cause for concern at about the 5-minute mark. Darius Quisenberry came down awkwardly and writhing in pain, holding his knee. He limped off and down the ramp toward the locker room leaving Warrior fans wondering what happened to their star guard. Quisenberry received a warm reception from the Warrior crowd when he emerged out of the tunnel and returned to the game at about the 3-minute mark. Wayne finished off the half leading 30-11.
Oak Hills cranked up the defense in the second half and Wayne slowed the pace. Wayne was still able to score in transition, after keeping Oak Hills off of the offensive glass, the Warriors gave up 10 second-chance points to the Highlanders in the second half. Oak Hills’ adjustments paid off on the offensive side of the ball, but Wayne was still able to extend its lead by outscoring the Highlanders 18-17.
The Warriors led going into the final period 48-28, but the Highlanders would not go away quietly. Oak Hills applied a full court press that seemed to catch the Warriors by surprise. The Highlanders cut into the Warriors lead and pulled to within 16 points, 54-38. Oak Hills fouled quickly to put Wayne in the bonus with 6 minutes left in the game, so it could cut the lead by trading threes for Wayne free throws. The Highlanders were able to cut the Warriors’ lead to 9 at 61-52 with 1:47 left in the game, but Wayne answered their run with a 7-0 run of its own making it 68-52 with 44.4 left. Both teams substituted any remaining starters for bench players and Oak Hills scored at the buzzer to get to the 68-54 final.
“Darius Quisenberry and Deshon Parker played like seniors should,” Martindale added. “They did a great job of controlling the pace of the game. It felt great to win the district championship and enjoy that moment with our players and fans. Moving forward we know that Princeton is a really solid team and we will have to play our best basketball to move on. We don’t get any re-dos at this point of the season so we are going to stay focused and continue to work on getting better starting today.”
The Oak Hills Highlanders’ improbable Cinderella season comes to an end, but the Wayne Warriors travel to Cintas Center in Cincinnati Wednesday, March 14 at 8 pm to take on the Princeton Vikings, who beat the Lakota East 53-51 earlier Saturday afternoon.
The Vikings will be without McDonald’s All-American senior forward Darius Bazley and senior guard Dominic Pierce, who will be serving the second game of a two-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation on the floor during the Vikings’ sectional victory over Sycamore last Friday. Wayne beat Princeton earlier this season 72-67 January 27 at Wilmington High School without Blue Smith in the lineup for most of the game.
WAY 16 30 48 68 – 68
OAK 02 11 28 54 – 54
Wayne: Deshon Parker 9, Darius Quisenberry 19, L’Christian Smith 23, Ronnie Hampton 7, Rashad McKee 10. Totals: 23-17-68.
Oak Hills: Nick Deifel 21, Deandre Hayes 4, Jacob Woycke 6, Jacob Berkemeier 13, Zachary Moeller 8, Ben Zahneis 2. Totals: 20-7-54.
Three-point goals: Wayne 5 (Parker 2, Smith 2, Quisenberry); Oak Hills 7 (Deifel 5, Woycke 2).
Records: Wayne 24-1, Oak Hills 19-6.
Reach Robert Williamson II at: RobertWilliamsonII@hotmail.com