FARMINGDALE — Saturday was the low point, the day the Oak Hill boys basketball team lost to a winless Mt. Abram team and found itself suddenly dealing with questions at a point in which teams aim to be coming up with answers.

“It was probably the toughest loss we’ve had all season,” coach Tom Smith said.

Smith was looking for a response. And after his Raiders rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Hall-Dale, 64-59, on the road in overtime, the coach was convinced he had seen what he had in mind.

“I think this was the answer I was looking for,” Smith said. “They’re just poised. Nothing seems to faze these guys. In years past, teams would have folded. But these guys have shown character; they’ve been playing ball a long time and it really started to come through tonight.”

The Raiders were led by a big effort from their big man. Center Marcus Bailey, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds in an earlier 59-53 victory over the Bulldogs, was just as effective Thursday, scoring 28 points while gathering 12 rebounds and blocking six shots.

“That was probably the lowest we’ve been at all season,” Bailey said of the Mt. Abram loss. “And I think a win like this just boosts our confidence and shows us that we can play with the best of the best in this conference.”

And, still, it didn’t look like it’d be enough. Not after a spirited third quarter gave Hall-Dale a 45-36 lead entering the fourth, and not after Ashtyn Abbott (18 points) hit one of his five 3-pointers to put the Bulldogs ahead 48-38 in the opening minute of the fourth.

Desperate for a rally, Oak Hill leaned on its top player. Bailey scored seven of the game’s next nine points, netting the last two on a putback that turned the Raiders’ formidable deficit into a brand-new game at 48-47 with 2:29 to go in the fourth.

“It just came down to our defense,” Bailey said. “We were just boosting each other’s confidence, saying we had each other’s backs.”

Hall-Dale stopped the bleeding with an Alec Byron runner — the Bulldogs’ only field goal in the final seven minutes of regulation – but Austin Noble hit a free throw and, after a Bailey steal, Evan Boston cut in for a layup with 51 seconds to go that evened the score at 50 and ultimately forced overtime.

The Oak Hill surge continued in overtime as the Raiders scored the first six points and Hall-Dale, having seen leading scorer Jett Boyer (17 points) foul out with 1:11 left to go in regulation, had to battle shorthanded. Abbott hit two 3-pointers, the last of which brought Hall-Dale within two at 58-56 with 1:22 left, but Darryn Bailey took off down the court after the shot and was hit for an easy fast break that bumped the lead back up to four points. Hall-Dale never got within a possession again.

“I’m going to have to reflect a little bit more before I can find something positive to take away,” said Bulldogs coach Chris Ranslow , whose team had 16 turnovers. “We made some really poor decisions down the stretch, and did things that are very uncharacteristic of our basketball team.”

That the night would end on a somber note seemed unlikely after Hall-Dale appeared to take over the game in the third quarter. The Bulldogs broke open what was a 23-all halftime tie with a 9-0 run of their own, getting balanced scoring and gritty play from Abbott, Boyer and Byron (17 points) to turn a 27-26 deficit into a 35-27 advantage with 4:36 to go.

The lead got as high as 11 in the final minute of the quarter when Boyer gathered a ball poked loose by Boyer and scored, and a rebounding effort led by Abbott, Boyer and Owen Dupont (seven boards each) was providing Hall-Dale with second-chance baskets that were keeping Oak Hill at bay.

The lead didn’t last, as the Raiders had their response ready to go just minutes later.

“I thought our intensity let us down in the first half, and I thought our mental discipline really left us in the second half. Especially in the fourth quarter,” Ranslow said. “We made mistakes that are uncharacteristic of the group, and it cost us dearly tonight.”

Instead, it was Oak Hill’s depth that prevailed late. Marcus Bailey was the top weapon, but Boston (19 points) and Darryn Bailey (six points, seven rebounds) provided the Raiders with support on a night in which they needed every bit of it.

“There’s no All-Star on this team,” Marcus Bailey said. “It’s a team effort, and I think we proved that tonight. We can win as a team.”

And, most importantly, win in difficult circumstances.

“This is huge for us,” Smith said. “This was just huge. It’s phenomenal for the school, it’s phenomenal for the program.”


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