Oakdale routs Sullivan North, 77-53

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By Goose Lindsay

With a Red Sea of followers cheering them on, the Oakdale Eagles earned their first-ever TSSAA Class A State Tournament berth Monday night with a dominating 77-53 victory over Sullivan North in a TSSAA Class A Sectional contest played at Roane State Community College.

“It’s unbelievable. I can’t even express how this feels,” Oakdale senior Jackson Hicks said. “I love these dudes. I love the team, the family, the coaches; we couldn’t do it without them. This is unbelievable.”

“It’s a sense of relief,” Oakdale head coach Travis Nelson added. “I’m relieved our guys came out and didn’t play nervous. They came out and played like they know how to play. It’s a relief that we’re finally there.

“I’m so happy for our guys. I know how hard they’ve worked and every single day they come in this was their goal. Now we’re here and we’ve got to move our goals up. We’re going down to Murfreesboro to try to win a championship.”

Monday’s game turned into one of Oakdale’s easiest wins of the season, as the Eagles led wire-to-wire.

Oakdale scored the first six points of the game and led 16-5 after eight minutes of play. The Eagles built the lead by turning defense into offense.

“We made some shots, but our defense got us going,” Nelson said. “We haven’t done that the last few games, but we have won games this year and to see that and to get the press back better that what it has been was good for us.”

The Raiders switched defense in the second quarter, but going from a 3-2 zone to a man-to-man didn’t slow Oakdale. After failing to hit a 3-pointer in the first period of play, the Eagles drained four triples in the second quarter. Those 3-pointers were part of a 31-point barrage that left Oakdale holding a commanding 47-18 lead at intermission.

“I didn’t expect that,” Hicks said of being up by nearly 30 at halftime. “But we had a good game plan and we executed it well.”

The Eagles didn’t let up in the third quarter. Oakdale outscored Sullivan North 25-18 in the third period to make the score 72-36 heading into the final period of play.

With such a big lead, everyone in an Oakdale uniform played down the stretch. The Raiders did take advantage, as they closed the game to 24 points by the end.

As has been the case through much of the season, Oakdale used a balanced attack to knock off Sullivan North. Ten players scored with Nate Arrowood (20 points) and Hicks (16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) scoring in double figures.

Justin Cross (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Thomas Brown (11 points, 5 rebounds) led the way for Sullivan North in defeat.

Oakdale now set its sights on Murfreesboro and the TSSAA Class A State Tournament. The Eagles will play next Wednesday or Thursday, but don’t expect Coach Nelson to ease up on his squad with more than a week to prepare.

“We’re going to treat it just like before the district tournament,” he said. “We’re not going to rest; we’re going to stay after it. We need to keep doing what we do and play fast, make sure we stay in shape and get up and down the floor.

“I just hope our guys realize that we’re not finished and don’t want to be done. I don’t want to go down there and make an appearance. I want to go down there have a chance to win it.

“We just got to get back in the gym and get in better shape,” Hicks added. “We’re going to practice like we have been.

“We just have to play like we have been and we’ll be good.”

Oakdale (77) Hicks 16, Arrowood 20, Smith 9, Nelson 6, Bingham 7, Barber 7, Poole 3, King 2, Miller 4, Burchfield 3.