Whenever the Raiders needed a spark or a needed some energy, Oak Hill knew where to look.
With 10 players returning from last year, the Raiders have plenty of experience on the bench, and they aren’t afraid to use it.
“We don’t skip a beat,” Oak Hill coach Charlie Castonguay said. “That’s one thing we found out this summer. When we’d put kids in, sometimes we’d come back against teams. I was surprised. I think our depth will pay huge dividends throughout the year.”
The Raiders used that depth against a St. Dom’s club that doesn’t have depth or experience. Oak Hill broke the game open early and never looked back in a 60-28 win over the Saints.
“I picked Oak Hill and Dirigo to be first and second in the league this year,” St. Dom’s coach Jon Berry said. “They have girls that can hit the outside shot. They have girls that are athletic. They have girls that can bang the boards. They have a lot of tools. We knew that.
“We have a lot of young, small, inexperienced girls that are good athletes and very coachable that are going to get better.”
Oak Hill’s Jamie Prue led all scorers with 17 points, including four 3’s. Grace Sabine came off the bench for 13 points while Brianna Mulherin subbed in for 12.
“We have very strong people coming off the bench,” Mulherin said. “We all contribute in different ways.”
Faith Grady led the Saints with 16. Chloe Dwinell had eight.
Grady and Dwinell are the only starters back for the Saints and the only two players who saw significant varsity action last year. Against a deep and balanced team like Oak Hill, St. Dom’s just couldn’t keep up.
“We want them to just keep the tempo up and wear the other team down,” said Castonguay of his team’s bench. We’ve got that depth and hopefully, we’re going to take advantage of it the whole season — by pushing the ball and putting the pressure on the other team and wearing them down.”
The Raiders used a 15-0 run in the first quarter. While Oak Hill was pulling away, the Saints went 3:11 between baskets and had 12 turnovers in the first quarter. St. Dom’s also had Dwinell and Allie Veinote in early foul trouble.
After baskets by Grady and Emily Dionne gave the Saints a 6-5 lead, the Raiders started to click. Oak Hill got shots from the outside, got turnovers from the press and got on a roll that the Saints couldn’t stop.
“I think we all work hard together,” said Mulherin, who was playing against her cousin, Veinotte. “We play very good on defense and talk well.”
A drive by Prue and a basket by Meagan Crosby gave the Raiders the lead for good. After a Prue free throw, Sabine hit a baseline jumper to make it 12-6. Prue scored off a steal and then followed that up with a 3. After a Sabine rebound and jumper by Sara Noel, Oak Hill was up 22-6 with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
“When we bring that second group in, they just take off,” Castonguay said. “With fresh legs, they obviously don’t have the depth and have a lot of young kids.”
The Raiders opened the lead to 42-18 by halftime. Though the Saints got a 6-0 run on a pair of scores from Grady and one from Veinote, Oak Hill used an 11-0 run to push the lead to 35-14. Prue hit a pair of 3’s while Mulherin had six points in the quarter.
“We’ve been working together for a very long time, like five years,” Mulherin said. “So we’re very used to playing with each other.”
The Saints managed just one field goal in the third and were outscored 6-0 in the fourth before a basket with 2:00 left in the game. St. Dom’s went nearly 11 minutes without a field goal in the second half.
“Every night is a teaching experience,” Berry said. “When I say our goal is to get better every day, I’m not just giving a line. That’s honestly what our goal is.”