WALES — The strong finish to the first half was almost as important as the impressive start Friday night.

The St. Dom’s boys’ basketball team opened the game with a convincing first quarter and then finished the half by maintaining the double-digit lead going into the half. That held up for a 50-40 win over Oak Hill.

The Saints built a quick 12-3 lead and were up 20-5 after the first quarter. St. Dom’s maintained the momentum in the second and were still up 28-16 at the half.

“We’ve been struggling with that at times,” St. Dom’s coach Todd Flaherty said. “Other times we’d come out good and then have that lull too. I thought the second quarter, we started to have that lull and we responded. That was as important as the start. We never let them go on a big run and get back into it.”

Though Oak Hill played solid the final three quarters and outscored the Saints 35-30 the rest of the way, the early deficit proved too much.

“It’s tough when you start down 20-5,” Oak Hill coach Tom Smith said. “The 50-50 balls, we didn’t go after them. They just outhustled us. That’s not the way I teach. We got outworked. The second half we turned it around, and it showed in the score.”

Cam Raymond led the Saints (4-7) with 12 points while Michael Bryant added 11. Matt Dyer had nine and Eric Ulin chipped in eight. Oak Hill (3-5) got 17 from Dalton Therrien and eight from Parker Asselin.

With both teams on the fringe of making the tourney field, it was a much-needed victory at stake.

“The kids know its a big game for us in the Heal Points,” said Flaherty, whose team jumped into the 12th spot, the potential final tourney berth,  in Western C. “We have some tough opponents coming up. We have some games that we really need to win to get into the tournament and this was one of them.”

The Saints were aggressive from the start and took advantage of the Raiders slow beginning. St. Dom’s outhustled Oak Hill for loose balls and were strong on the boards. The Raiders also were slow getting to defensive assignments, leaving Saints shooters open.

After Dyer opened the game with a 3, Oak Hill got a basket from Kyle Field. The Saints then scored six straight on baskets by Raymond, Dyer and Ulin. A 3 from Madison Jalbert made it 12-3. After Oak Hill got a jumper from Asselin, the Saints finished the quarter with eight straight points. Four came from Bryant while Raymond and Dyer also scored for the 20-5 advantage.

Oak Hill started the game hiting just one of its first eight shots and finished 2-for-11 in the quarter.

The Raiders started the second with a 7-2 run, including a 3 from Therrien. Oak Hill were within nine points twice but a 6-3 run at the end of the quarter maintained the 28-16 lead.  Raymond, Ulin and Becket Wagner all scored, despite another 3 from Therrien.

“We haven’t been winning a lot of close games,” Flaherty said. “So our confidence isn’t where we’d like it to be. So it was important to respond there and keep that lead that we had.”

The Raiders made another push in the third and got as close as 32-25 with 3:22 left. Oak Hill opened the quarter with a 9-4 run.  Jonah Martin had five points during that stretch, including a 3. A short jumper by Asselin cut the lead to seven.

“We got within seven,” Smith said. “We were doing what we wanted to do. We started setting screens at the top, and we got away from it again. They pushed it back up.”

The Saints finished the third with a 10-2 run, including eight straight points. A Raymond jumper made it a nine-point game with 3:06 left. After free throws by Wagner, he scored inside and Raymond followed with a jumper and two free throws for a 41-25 lead.

“Our defense was pretty good but our rebound was excellent,” Flaherty said. “So we didn’t give them any second chance points. They’re pretty athletic. So I think that was a big part of it.”

After taking a 43-27 lead into the fourth, the Saints kept the Raiders at arms length until Oak Hill scored nine of the game’s final 11 points.

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