Findlay Prep’s boys basketball team was on the verge of playing for another national tournament title.
But Oak Hill (Va.) had another idea.
The Pilots, who had just seven players dressed, led by 14 in the third quarter, but Oak Hill forced 15 second-half turnovers and rallied for a 64-56 win in the semifinals of the High School National Tournament at Christ the King High School in New York City on Friday.
“They just wore us down,” Findlay Prep coach Jerome Williams said. “they were able to sub guys in and out, in and out the whole game. When the press did come, instead of having the burst of speed to get by the press, they were able to get turnovers because we were too tired.”
Cody Martin scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the Warriors.
Findlay Prep (31-5) led 34-20 after a three-point play by Craig Victor with 6:30 to go in the third quarter.
But the Pilots struggled against Oak Hill’s diamond-and-one press, turning the ball over nine times in the third quarter, including a string of six consecutive possessions.
The Pilots were missing three players because of injuries, including sophomore Derryck Thornton, the team’s only true point guard. Without Thornton, Findlay Prep had to relay on sophomore swingman Justin Jackson to run the point.
“They did a good job pressuring the ball and pressuring the inbounder,” Williams said. “With Derryck Thornton being out, that really took another ballhandler off the court and put guys in positions they normally wouldn’t be.”
Martin, who has signed with North Carolina State, took advantage of the miscues, scoring 14 points in the third quarter to lead the charge.
His basket with 2:12 to go in the quarter capped a 10-0 run that cut the Pilots lead to 36-34.
Martin followed brother Caleb Martin’s miss with one second to go in the third quarter to give Oak Hill (41-3) its first lead since early in the second quarter at 40-39.
The lead changed hands six times in the fourth quarter, and Findlay Prep tied the game at 49 after a free throw by Kelly Oubre with 4:08 to go.
But Cody Martin had a steal and a basket with 3:57 left that gave the Warriors a 51-49 lead, and they wouldn’t trail again.
Shelton Mitchell was 11-for-12 from the free-throw line in the final 1:07 to help seal the win for Oak Hill.
Oubre, who has signed with Kansas, scored 19 points in the first half on 8-for-10 shooting to lead the Pilots to a 30-20 advantage at the break. But he missed all four of his second-half field goals, scoring three points on free throws to finish with a team-high 22 points.
UNLV-bound senior Rashad Vaughn never got going, finishing with eight points. He was 4-for-16 from the field.
Victor had 11 points and six rebounds, but sat out most of the first half after picking up his second foul.
The Pilots had no available subs at the end of the game after Vaughn and Dillon Brooks fouled out.
“We really tip our hat to Oak Hill,” Williams said. “And next year hopefully we’ll have enough guys to play hard.”
Caleb Martin and Mitchell each scored 13 for the Warriors, who advance to the title game at 9 a.m. Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.