High School hoops: Oak Hill, Thornwell pay Midlands a visit

Heralded team will play area squad this weekend

12/14/2012 12:00 AM

12/13/2012 7:36 PM

Reigning high school national basketball champion Oak Hill Academy will be in Columbia for two games this weekend in the Clarion Hotel Invitational at Ridge View.

The Warriors from Mouth of Wilson, Va., face Keenan today at 8:30 p.m. and play against Ridge View at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Oak Hill, which features former Lancaster star and South Carolina signee Sindarius Thornwell, is making a December trip to Columbia for the third year in a row. The Warriors played at Ridge View in front of a packed house in 2011 and made their first appearance at the Chick-fil-A Classic at Richland Northeast last year.

“We have developed a good relationship with coach Steve Smith and Oak Hill Academy over the years,” Ridge View coach John Combs said. “Oak Hill is a team that is in demand around the country, but the fact that they have agreed to come back shows they like the competition and the hospitality we provide.”

Combs said he asked Smith for years to put his team on the schedule, and his team began making regular visits to Virginia in 2007.

The Warriors went 41-0 last season and were named the No. 1 team in the nation by various media outlets. The closest call came against Keenan last season in the second round of the Chick-fil-A. The Raiders had the ball for the last shot trailing by one point. The Raiders did not convert, allowing Oak Hill to escape, 68-67.

“We panicked a little there at the end and didn’t get the shot we wanted,” Keenan coach Zach Norris said. “We are a different team this year. We lost seven seniors, and we were going through some growing pains with young inside players. How well we do this time will come down to how we compete inside against their size. We don’t want it to turn into a running game.”

Keenan and Ridge View are 5-0.

“If we win, it will definitely be an upset, but if we can pull it off, it will give us the kind of recognition we’ve never had outside of our state,” Norris said. “That’s the thing that has our kids motivated.”

Oak Hill’s all-star lineup also includes 6-foot-6 small forward Troy Williams (Indiana) and point guard Nate Britt (North Carolina). There is plenty of size in the post with Lennard Freeman (6-8), Rokas Gustys (6-8) and Khadim Dieng (6-10).

Oak Hill (13-1) had its 56-game winning streak come to an end on this past Saturday in Washington, D.C., losing to Paul VI — the team it beat in the Chick-fil-A finals last season.

Combs expects the two Oak Hill Academy games to be sellouts.

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