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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Salt Fork's defense tops Oakwood's offense

Feb. 7—FITHIAN — Some teams are built on offense, while others are built on defense.

Tuesday's Vermilion Valley Conference clash between the Oakwood Comets and the Salt Fork Storm could easily be classified as a battle opposite forces.

Oakwood came into the matchup averaging 60.8 points per game and the Comets were a remarkable 22-0 when scoring 54 or more points in a contest, while Salt Fork has the VVC's best defense allowing just 37.8 points per contest and the Storm are 12-3 in games where they held their opponents to less than 40 points.

Which style would prevail?

Salt Fork's defense, with a little help from a cold-shooting Oakwood team, earned a 43-39 triumph at the Pit.

"They have been scoring in the 70s and we knew that we couldn't play that style of game in order for us to compete," Salt Fork coach Andrew Johnson said. "When you hold an offense like that to 39 points, you have to be happy with what your defense did and with your rebounding.

"They run really good actions and they have really good shooters and a nice post player. But give our kids credit, they got after it. We scraped for a lot of 50-50 balls and we did a good job of putting ourselves in a position to contest as best as possible."

Johnson openly admitted that the Comets missed a number of 3-pointers that they usually make and he noted that they were just 10-of-21 at the free-throw line.

"We really struggled," said Oakwood coach Jeff Mandrell. "And, then we were 10-of-21 from the line, so we missed some of our chances.

"As a coach, if we are missing perimeter shots, than I think we need to take some different shots... Also, when you are missing shots, you want to get fouled and go to the free-throw line but we didn't capitalized there either."

It just simply was the style of game that favored the Storm (16-9 overall, 6-4 in the VVC).

"We are not an offense to defense kind of team," said Salt Fork senior Hayden Chew. "We are a defense to offense team. We take pride in our defense."

Tuesday's game was not the sixth consecutive win for Salt Fork, but it was also the sixth straight game that it held their opponent to 40 or fewer points.

Chew is hoping that the Storm has improved their chances for a top seed in the IHSA Class 1A Regional to be hosted by Salt Fork.

"I think getting this win is a big step heading into seeding process," he said, as the coaches vote on Wednesday and the official seeds will be released on Thursday. "I think this should help us with our seeding."

The senior captain not only played a big role on the defensive end as Oakwood's 6-foot-6 center Alec Harrison was held to 8 points, but Chew also found his scoring touch with 11 of his game-high 17 points coming in the second half. None of them any more important than his layup with 35 seconds remaining that gave the Storm a 41-39 lead. He also made 1-of-2 free throws with 9.9 seconds left to help seal the victory.

"A lot of Chew's points came off good relocations off drives where Harrison was forced to help," Johnson said. "He did a nice job of being disciplined and making the buckets he needed to make. As a senior he stepped up huge in a lot of different ways. That's what you expect your seniors to do."

And Johnson said that Salt Fork really needed Chew's contributions because fellow senior, Evan Webb, was not only in foul trouble Tuesday night, but he was also under the weather.

Did Chew believe he had to step up for his team?

"Normally, I like to see the other guys score," he said. "But I'm not mad, when it comes my way on a night."

Chew admitted staying calm and keeping their composure wasn't the easiest task in the fourth quarter as Oakwood rallied from a 12-point deficit (37-25) to tie the game at 39-39 as Jackson Dudley, who had a team-high 10 points, made 1-of-2 free throws with 51 seconds remaining.

The Storm turned the ball over 10 times in the fourth quarter, but the Comets managed to score only 9 points on those extra possessions.

"They made quite a few turnovers and you second-guess things at the end, should we have done this or that," Mandrell said. "It was a free-flowing game and I was hoping we could finish it off that way, but it just didn't happen."

Johnson acknowledged the Oakwood press definitely turned the game around in the fourth quarter.

"They did a nice job of diving through and getting those steals," he said. "We weren't attacking the way that we were supposed to attack the pressure. We were just trying to get rid of it and we got a little flustered.

"Luckily, we did enough to win it."

Joining Chew in double figures for Salt Fork was senior guard Jameson Remole with 16. He had 11 of those in the first half.

Salt Fork 43, Oakwood 39

Salt Fork (43) — Grant Wilson 0 0-0 0, Evan Webb 2 1-1 5, Kamdyn Keller 2 0-0 5, Jameson Remole 5 4-5 16, Hayden Chew 8 1-2 17, Ian Church 0 0-0 0, Maddax Stine 0 0-0 0, Evan Hageman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 6-8 43.

Oakwood (39) — Derek Drews 0 0-0 0, Brody Taflinger 1 0-0 3, Bryson McDaniel 2 1-2 5, Cort Vermilion 1 0-0 2, Alec Harrison 3 2-2 8, Brandt Hobick 1 0-4 2, Carsen Dudley 2 5-8 9, Jackson Dudley 3 2-5 10. Totals: 13 10-21 39.

Salt Fork '11 '14 '6 '12 '— '43

Oakwood '2 '10 '13 '14 '— '39

3-pointers — Salt Fork 3 (Remole 2, Keller 1). Oakwood 3 (J.Dudley 2, Taflinger 1). Total fouls — Salt Fork 18, Oakwood 20. Fouled out — Webb. Officials — Jim Depratt, Devan Fox and Dane Severado.

Records — Salt Fork 16-9 overall, 6-4 in the Vermilion Valley Conference. Oakwood 22-7 overall, 9-2 in the VVC.