WALES — Nothing outside of the sidelines looked like a tournament game, but on the hardwood Tuesday that’s precisely the way Poland and Oak Hill battled.

The game wasn’t always pretty, but the non-conference foes fought each other tough for 32 minutes, after which the visiting Knights came away with a 44-40 boys basketball victory.

“Just toughness throughout,” Poland junior Hunter Gibson said. “What we practice every day is toughness throughout, game in, game out, and we just kept doing it the whole game.”

Gibson scored a game-high 17 points, including the dagger 3-pointer with 1:30 left to give the Knights (4-1) a 44-38 lead. He also played nearly every minute of the game, since Poland dressed only eight players and used seven due to COVID-19. The starting five were the only varsity regulars.

“I’m just happy we played today because yesterday was pretty stressful, as everyone’s making the calls and we’re trying to figure out if we’re going to have enough guys, and who we’re going to lose and everything,” Poland coach Tyler Tracy said.

The Knights got off to the better start, with Gibson and Isaiah Hill (14 points) each hitting 3s midway through the first quarter to give Poland an early 10-2 lead. The Raiders (3-2) responded by drawing within 12-8 after one quarter, then kept it close before taking their first lead midway through the third period.

“It felt like a tournament game,” Oak Hill coach Tom Smith said. “We match up pretty well. They hit 3s. We started to defend and everything, and once we decided to defend, it became a battle. They hit a couple 3s down the stretch that really put them ahead of us there. But the guys battled back the whole night. So it’s just a tough loss, and I know they’re a little upset, but we’ll be right back at it tomorrow and we’ll get ready for them (in a rematch) Thursday.”

The Raiders like to take advantage of their transition game, but that wasn’t working for much of Tuesday’s game, mostly, according to Smith, due to misses and turnovers. Jackson Arbour had the team’s first transition points early in the second quarter, and then Ramon Spearman turned a steal into a layup to decrease Oak Hill’s deficit to 15-12. That was it for transition scoring in the period, however.

“There’s a few things that you pride yourself on, and it’s on the boards, turnovers and transition D,” Tracy said. “If you can take care of those, you’re going to be in it every night.”

The Oak Hill defense tightened up to start the second half, and Spearman’s steal and layup, plus a made free throw on a three-point play, gave the Raiders their first lead at 23-22. A second-chance turnaround shot less than a minute later stretched the lead to 25-22, only for the Knights to take it back on a Hill 3 and Gibson steal and layup.

The teams swapped the lead back and forth for the rest of the quarter, with Poland taking a 30-29 lead into the fourth. Gavin Rawstron’s basket 53 seconds into the final frame gave the Raiders their final lead, before Joe Ringuette’s putback gave Poland the lead back for good.

Rawstron did his part to keep Oak Hill in it, scoring eight of his team-high 12 points in the fourth.

“It’s something that you expect from him. He knows when he’s got to do what he’s got to do, and he’s just a great player,” Smith said. “He tries to get the whole team involved in it, and if it doesn’t then he takes it upon himself.”

Tracy praised Ringuette for his defense on Rawstron. The Knights’ leading scorer from last year, and an all-conference selection, didn’t make a shot until the go-ahead putback early in the fourth, but Tracy said Ringuette did a lot of other things to help the team win. He finished with five points.

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