The Eagles connected on only 3 of 9 foul shots, but it didn’t matter. Their nearly nonstop pressing defense and solid shooting in transition led them to a 77-53 win over Sullivan North in a TSSAA Class A boys basketball sectional at Roane State Community College.
The win secured the school’s first trip to the state tournament in Murfreesboro.
“This is huge for our kids. I know how hard they worked and the selflessness they’ve shown, just coming to practice every day and doing what we asked them to do,” Oakdale coach Travis Nelson said.
The Eagles (28-6) showed their selflessness again Monday night when 11 players put their names in the Oakdale scoring column.
Nathan Arrowood finished with a game-high 17 points, and Jackson Hicks added 16.
Most of Oakdale’s points, particularly in the first half, came from the transition game. The Eagles took advantage of 12 North turnovers and every missed basket in the first half to build a 47-18 lead at halftime.
“That’s just the style that we play. We like to go down the floor and like to press,” Nelson said. “I kind of thought that we would wear them down. I didn’t know that it would happen that early.
“With our bench, we play 10 guys and I thought we might be able to wear them down, maybe, by the final quarter and have a chance to win the game.”
With several shots coming from layups, Oakdale sank 67.9 percent of its field goals in the first half and finished the game shooting 60.7 percent from the field.
North (18-17) battled strong in the second half but could not overcome the big halftime deficit.
The Golden Raiders — led by 12 points from Justin Cross and 11 from Thomas Brown — overcame obstacles this year to advance to the sectional game.
Coach Travis Cain’s squad included six seniors, and five of them were starters.
“Our seniors mean a lot to us. We went from 3-27 last year to 18-17 this year, so that’s a pretty big turnaround,” Cain said. “That didn’t happen by just showing up. They put in a lot of hard work. They led by example and they left good examples for our younger players to follow.
“As far as the ballgame goes, we just got outcoached and outplayed. Oakdale is just a really good ball team. They’re worth all the hype that you’ve heard.”