WALES — The music blared from the Oak Hill boys basketball team’s locker room, the rumble of the bass seeping through the wall and onto the Raiders’ home floor.

After another early-season victory, set up by another fine effort under pressure, the Raiders are starting to feel like this season can be a special one.

“Coach said in the locker room, ‘Oak Hill basketball is finally here,’ ” center Marcus Bailey said. “We’re actually competing at this level. It’s been a long time.”

The latest passed test may have been the most impressive. Bailey scored 26 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Raiders through a tight fourth quarter and over Hall-Dale, 59-53, handing the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.

“The kids are just playing well as a team,” coach Tom Smith said. “It’s been a big roller coaster ride so far and the kids are loving it right now.”

Oak Hill improved to 5-2 with the win, earning its fifth win in six games after a blowout loss to Winthrop in the opener. The Raiders have had to earn their victories late; Oak Hill edged Monmouth, 59-57, on Monday, then had to rally back from two Hall-Dale leads in the fourth quarter on Tuesday.

“We’ve rattled off some good wins. The last two games have been barn-burners,” said Smith, whose team went 6-13 last season. “Monmouth and now (Tuesday night) is just a super start for this program.”

Hall-Dale, which received an 18-point performance from Tyler Nadeau, led 26-23 at halftime, led with less than five minutes to go and was tied with less than three to play, but faded down the stretch to fall to 6-1.

“We were flat,” coach Chris Ranslow said. “We got off the bus flat, we had a bad practice yesterday. A lack of intensity, a lack of focus, and it translated into a lack of execution.”

The Bulldogs still had their chances at extending their undefeated start, particularly with just under five minutes left when Alec Byron (eight points) splashed a jumper to put Hall-Dale ahead 45-44.

With the game on the line, the Raiders turned to Bailey to carry them the rest of the way, and the 6-foot-4 center was ready. Bailey finished inside to regain the lead for Oak Hill, then rebounded a Hall-Dale miss before adding a putback layup to put the Raiders up 48-45 with 2:59 to go.

“I feel like it was just the way the game settled,” Bailey said of his role down the stretch. “I knew I had a mismatch and they noticed it too, so I was just letting them know, ‘get me the ball.’ It wasn’t cockiness more than confidence I could finish the game for my team.”

Hall-Dale wasn’t done, pulling even at 48 on a 3-pointer by Jett Boyer, but neither was Bailey. He scored inside, grabbed another rebound in the Bulldogs’ end, then finished inside again for a 52-48 lead. Darryn Bailey (five points) notched the next basket, and after Nadeau hit a three to restore some drama at 56-51 with 40 seconds left, Evan Boston sank four free throws on two trips to seal the game.

“Marcus is a unique individual,” Smith said. “When he stays on the court, he’s probably one of the hardest kids to guard. He can shoot inside, he’s got the moves (of) a guard. … He’s just a phenomenal kid and the team loves him. He’s one of the captains and his game speaks for itself.”

Bailey’s impact was evident in the numbers. Leaning on their center, Oak Hill shot 54 percent from the field. Reliant Tuesday on jump shots and 3-pointers, Hall-Dale shot 29 percent.

“Our motto this year is (to) go inside-out,” Smith said. “At the beginning of the year, we shot too many threes. We’ve cut back on the threes and that’s made a big difference.”

Hall-Dale hit eight of those 3-pointers, with two coming from Tyler Nadeau, who scored 11 points in the first half as the Bulldogs raced out to a quick lead, and two more going to Ashtyn Abbott (11 points), who had one of the game’s best individual efforts early in the fourth. Abbott (six rebounds) had four boards (two offensive) and six straight points as Hall-Dale turned a 39-35 deficit after three quarters into a 43-39 lead with 6:19 to play.

“He gave us a spark,” Ranslow said. “On a night that was pretty weak and dismal, he was a nice addition off the bench.”

It wasn’t enough, however — not with the way Bailey took over in the fourth.

“He’s a big target, and if you let him reverse pivot and shoot the ball three or four feet from the rim he’s going to make a lot of them,” Ranslow said. “We tried to do a couple of different things with him. … We didn’t have enough in the tank in the last couple of minutes there to do what we needed to.”

Bailey was the driving force, but he wasn’t the only factor as Oak Hill nailed down what might have been the biggest win of its young season. Boston had 12 points and Cohen Donnell scored 11 for the Raiders, providing just the kind of team effort that was so notably absent during Oak Hill’s dreary 2015-16 campaign.

“Our confidence was pretty low after (a Dec. 27) loss to Wiscasset, but we beat Monmouth in a close one last night and I think beating this undefeated team really set the point for us that we can compete with the undefeated teams, the Madisons, the Winthrops,” Marcus Bailey said. “As you can hear from the background music, our confidence is pretty high right now.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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