WALES — Time to tiptoe on a limb without venturing far from the tree trunk.
Oak Hill won't endure another 0-18 boys' basketball season. In fact, the Raiders will compete with almost every new rival in the Mountain Valley Conference.
Oh, and St. Dom's will challenge for its seventh straight Western Class C playoff berth.
All that was crystal clear Monday night after the Saints christened their own new era with a second season-opening victory in 48 hours, rallying past the Raiders, 63-56.
St. Dom's did its part to greet Oak Hill, a refugee from the Class B division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, by erasing a seven-point deficit in the third period.
The Saints also trailed briefly in the fourth before Matt Dyer's two free throws put them ahead to stay with 3:56 left. St. Dom's forced 11 of Oak Hill's 31 turnovers in the final period.
"That's been kind of our message to the kids. We want to play good defense and try to wear people down with it a little bit," first-year St. Dom's coach Todd Flaherty said. "It kept us hanging around. Then we made some baskets and enough foul shots down the stretch to win it."
Sophomore Mike Bryant led St. Dom's with 21 points and nine rebounds. Senior Nick Hatfield sank 11 of his 14 points from the free-throw line.
Zak Johnson added eight points, nine rebounds, eight steals and five assists for St. Dom's, which put four players in double digits in a Saturday win over Madison.
"We lost four of our starters and our sixth man (to graduation). It was interesting looking forward to seeing what we have and who would step up," said Johnson, the lone returnee with significant varsity experience. "Starting fast, we're not used to that, so it's a big mental thing for us."
Madison Jalbert also scored eight points and Dyer and Eric Ulin added six apiece for the Saints, who were 20-for-34 from the foul line.
Parker Asselin topped Oak Hill (0-2) with 23 points, including three of the Raiders' seven 3-pointers.
"Too many turnovers. They're a good ball club. I don't want to take anything away from them," Oak Hill coach Tom Smith said. "It's a big difference coming into this league. Eventually these guys are going to taste a victory, and after that we'll be fine."
St. Dom's put away Oak Hill with a 14-5 run after Asselin's 3-pointer from the right corner furnished a 48-47 lead with 4:07 to play.
Asselin nailed another trey to get the Raiders back within one, 52-51, but Johnson matched it after collecting a long offensive rebound.
Trever Samson (eight points) and Asselin each fouled out shortly thereafter. Hatfield, Bryant and Johnson combined for eight points from the stripe down the stretch.
While Oak Hill shot better than 50 percent from the field in the second half, the Raiders were undone by close-range bricks early and errant passes late.
"I can count 10 layups we missed," Smith said.
St. Dom's extended 1-3-1 zone caused Oak Hill headaches all night, headlined by Johnson and Hatfield (six steals).
"One of the problems in the beginning was because our defense was up-tempo, it forced our offense to be up-tempo and we were missing shots," Johnson said. "The second half we were able to settle down and get better shots and make the easier ones."
After his team trailed 14-7 out of the gate, Hatfield's open 3-pointer snagged the Saints a 22-21 halftime edge.
Sam Morin assisted three baskets and added another of his own in an 8-0 Oak Hill run to a 31-24 cushion in the third.
Bryant's seven points in the period kept the Saints afloat, though, and the Raiders nursed a 40-37 lead with eight minutes remaining.
"Usually I have four guys on the floor who can (consistently) put the ball in the basket. That's an advantage," Flaherty said.
Morin had eight points, six assists and four steals for Oak Hill, which forced 19 turnovers and held St. Dom's to 34 percent from the field.
"We have to turn up the intensity a little bit more," said Smith, a former St. Dom's assistant. "We're not as strong defensively as we need to be, but it's coming."