WEST POINT — He stands, maybe, 5 feet, 9 inches tall. He is not lightning-quick. In street clothes, “basketball player” might not be the first thing that springs to mind.
But on a night when a lot of things went right for Oak Hill Academy’s boys basketball team, nobody was more effective inside than senior Conner Freeman.
Freeman scored 15 of his game-high 22 points during the second half Tuesday night — all of them down low or from the line — as the Raiders steamrolled North Delta 62-40 in an MAIS Class 4A District 1 game.
“He understands angles, he understands the game of basketball, he’s got a lot of composure,” Oak Hill coach Lee Hazlewood said. “He’s good with shot fakes and position inside. He does a really, really good job.”
The third quarter was largely dominated by Freeman, whether it was taking passes from Cameron Dill for easy layups, getting an offensive rebound and scoring on a putback or making a strong move to the basket himself.
“This was a really good game for me,” Freeman said. “I come with the confidence and intensity every game, but I scored a lot more points in this game.”
While he scored more than usual, the senior said the way he was scoring was his normal routine.
“Layups, putbacks, free throws, get rebounds,” he said. “I usually don’t dribble the ball very much.”
But other Raiders handled that task just fine. In fact, Hazlewood said each of his starters had stretches during which they played the key role.
“Collins Trolio did a good job,” he said. “I thought our point guard, Cameron Dill, played well; at times John Ross Craven and Nathan Harrington did, too. At times they all executed and did a good job.
“They’re selfless kids. They don’t mind who scores as long as we win. That’s what I enjoy about them.”
If Freeman did much of the damage after halftime, Trolio carried much of the freight before it. The junior finished with 17 points, scoring 13 during the first two quarters, including a 3-pointer and a 4-of-5 effort from the line.
The Raiders got off to a sluggish start, and the Green wave led 11-9 early in the second quarter. But Oak Hill scored 13 consecutive points to take command, and Trolio and Freeman combined for the team’s final 12 points of the half as the Raiders took a 32-18 lead into the break.
Despite the lead, the Raiders seemed somewhat out of sorts, and they were getting killed on the boards. The Green Wave had plenty of second chances, but most of the shots were contested and they could not take advantage of their rebounding edge.
“It was a lack of putting bodies on people,” Hazlewood said. “They found out at halftime that’s something they didn’t do a good job of.”
For much of the game, the Raiders were more effective on the offensive boards than on the defensive boards, largely because of Freeman, who scored 8 of his points on putbacks of teammates’ misses.
“It isn’t really about who’s the best basketball player,” Freeman said. “You’ve just got to come out here and play hard.”
“He lit a fire under us,” Hazlewood said. “He plays bigger than he is. If he was 6-2 and did that, he’d be unstoppable.”
Dill (twice), Harrington and Craven each recorded assists by finding Freeman underneath. Dill’s passing was another highlight for the Raiders; twice he made passes that led to baskets while sprawled on the floor. He also finished with 8 points, as did Harrington. Craven chipped in with 7.
It all added up to a 14th win in 17 games for the Raiders. To hear Freeman tell it, they didn’t expect to be this good.
“We knew we were coming out very small and we had a lot of young guys, but we’ve made the best of what we have,” he said. The big difference between expectations and reality? “The shots are going in.”
“We’re kind of where I’d hoped we would be,” Hazleton said, adding that while there are things the Raiders could be better at, it’s a coach’s job to find ways to get better.
If they do, this could be a special team. With a starting lineup featuring three seniors and two juniors, it feels like the right time.
“We’ve all pretty much grown up here,” Freeman said. “We work really well together. … I think we can be great.”
Columbus Christian 57, Kemper 24: Jackson Howard led a balanced attack with 13 points as the Rams rolled in a nondistrict game.
Drake Shaw and Joe Edwards each scored 9 points for Columbus Christian, which evened its record at 6-6.
Ben Campbell added 8 points for the Rams, who will return to district play Friday at West Memphis Christian.
Caledonia 40, Mooreville 38: The Cavaliers improved to 11-6 by defeating the Troopers for their first Class 4A Region 1 win. Caledonia is 1-3 in the region, while Mooreville fell to 6-6, 1-2.
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