WALES — Oak Hill girls basketball coach Dale Gamage is not in a rush to see the Raiders square off against Spruce Mountain again anytime soon.

The Phoenix made a lasting impression with their never-quit attitude, but Oak Hill didn’t show any signs of letting up, either, and held on for a 44-38 victory on Thursday night.

Spruce Mountain’s Auriana Armandi (10) reaches in as Oak Hill’s Gabby Chessie (2) dribbles the ball in a basketball game in Wales on Thursday night. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“They are a well-coached ball club,” Gamage said. “The girls have a lot of heart. They dug in. They never give up and I am not really looking forward to meeting them at their place.”

Just when the Phoenix started closing the gap in each of the last three quarters of play, the Raiders turned up the heat and maintained their distance.

“They are tough; they played good ball,” Gamage said. “I think what worked for us is it comes down to basics, fundamentals, holding on to the ball and moving, and kind of get in the niche to pass and cut. I think our defense really stuck in there towards the end of it.”

Defense was the key for both teams in an overheated fourth quarter.  With 3:31 left in the game, freshman guard Jayden Pingree went under and came up with two of her game-high 12 points, leaving the Raiders clinging to a 33-30 lead.

The Raiders responded with a four-point effort from Gabby Chessie (eight points) and were back on top with a 39-33 lead with 2:24 left.

In the end, Oak Hill’s defense prevailed despite Spruce’s tenacity.

“We got behind the eight ball early,” Spruce Mountain coach Zach Keene said. “We started the game poorly and it just became an uphill battle the rest of the way. 

“I was happy with the way we turned it up and responded and competed, but when you put yourself in that position, there is very little room for error — and that is a very good basketball team. I was happy with the way we competed.”

Oak Hill’s Paige Gonya (0) tries pass the ball as Spruce Mountain’s Liz Grondin reaches for the ball in Wales on Thursday evening. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Senior guard Audrey Bauer (five points), who turned in a steady performance on defense for Oak Hill, said communication was the key to staying ahead of Spruce Mountain.

“I think talking a lot on defense (helped) and not giving up because a lot of us had to stay up tonight, especially, and that helped a lot,” she said. “We just had to keep up and stay with it.”

By halftime, the Raiders were leading 20-13 before the Phoenix’s defense began pressing in the third quarter. 

Senior forward Anna Beach turned in a team-high nine points for the Raiders. Spruce Mountain sophomore guard Mariyah Fournier threw herself into fray in the second half, eventually scoring a total of 11 points.

It wasn’t until the end of the second quarter that Spruce’s defense started to shine, allowing its offense to kick in and catch up during the third quarter. 

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