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Oakdale wins District 3-A Championship against Harriman

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By Taylor Crombie

While some teams struggled under the pressure, the Oakdale Eagles rose to the occasion on Tuesday in the District 3-A Championship game against the defending state champions Harriman Blue Devils. Oakdale lost 75-70 in overtime in their most recent meeting, but the Eagles won the district championship 55-43.

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“Shay (Shannon) does a great job and they’ve got a whole lot of good basketball players, really good athletes and just tough to defend for the third time this year,” Oakdale head coach Travis Nelson said. “They’ve all been really close. It just says a lot about our guys, knowing what the moment was, that Harriman is a really good team and just to come out and play hard.”

While the Eagles won by a 12-point margin, Harriman didn’t just roll over and hand the game to them. The excitement and grind of tournament play got to Oakdale at times, but it was not anything that the team could not overcome.

“They made some shots, we got lost a couple times on defense, gave up a couple offensive rebounds, just stuff that we talked about,” Nelson said. “I thought tonight we looked a little more fatigued. Being in a championship game, I think they got a little hyped up to begin with and when you’re like that, it takes up a lot of energy jumping around. We looked a little more winded tonight than we did on Saturday and I think mentally we just got lost a couple times, but nothing big. We were able to maintain the lead.”

While Oakdale only led by one at the end of the first quarter, the Eagles were in control of the game and it began to show on the scoreboard in the second period. They put together a nine-point run behind seven points from Dawson Smith just before the end of the half to build a 28-20 lead at halftime.

The Eagles kept on rolling in the third quarter, extending their lead to 14 before Harriman head coach Shay Shannon called a timeout in effort to slow Oakdale down and put the Devils back in the game. Rhett Nelson led the charge with eight points, while Smith added a three and Jackson Hicks added two.

“After Rhett made that first one it was like ‘guys get him the ball,’” Travis Nelson said. “He’s one of those that when he’s got confidence, it’s going to go in…You could tell by his form and the way he shot the ball, he was really confident and did a really good job.”

Harriman started to build some momentum after the timeout and cut Oakdale’s lead down to five with a nine-point run. Rhett Nelson stepped up again in a big way with a three right before the buzzer to put the Eagles up by eight. Oakdale led 44-36 headed into the final frame.

The first half of the fourth period was slow for both teams scoring-wise, but Harriman managed cut the Eagles lead down to four with just under five minutes left in the game.

Nate Arrowood made Oakdale’s first bucket of the quarter after grabbing a rebound, then Hicks made a layup to get Oakdale’s crowd back in it. Harriman only made one free throw for the rest of the game, while Nelson made another three and Hicks made four free throws to secure the 55-43 championship victory for the Eagles.

Hicks led the team with 20 points and was named the tournament MVP. Harriman’s fans did their best to get inside his head with chants directed at him anytime he made a mistake, but that only served as motivation for Hicks.

“That’s the worst thing you can do to Jackson is call him out in front of everybody,” Travis Nelson said. “He’s not going to stare you down or anything, but that kind of gets his second gear going. When he gets into that mode, it’s hard to guard him. Jackson just was relentless trying to get to the goal late, get to the free throw line, and did a better job of attacking the goal.”

Rhett Nelson, Smith and Brett Bingham were also named to the all-tournament team. Nelson put up 18 points with four 3-pointers, while Smith added 10 points and led the team with nine rebounds.

Oakdale (55) Hicks 20, Arrowood 6, Smith 10, Best 1, Nelson 18.

Harriman (43) Anderson 4, Copeland 5, Moore 3, Love 4, McCullum 15, Worthy 5, Duncan 7.