February 3, 2007

No.1 Huntington Goes Down

LEXINGTON, KY -- It's been a tumultuous week for the nation's No. 1 ranked team to say the least. It looked like Huntington star guard O.J. Mayo was going to miss Tuesday night's game against No. 22 Artesia (Lakewood, CA) and Friday night's match up with Scott County (KY) until receiving an injunction for his two-game suspension stemming from an on-court incident a week ago.

Mayo arrived approximately an hour before tip-off after being driven from Huntington to Durham, North Carolina and the Highlanders survived the Pioneers, 73-66, after Mayo fouled out with 2:38 left in Tuesday's game.

On Friday night, the entire Huntington team arrived at the University of Kentucky's Memorial Arena approximately 45 minutes before tip-off against Scott County (KY), got off to a sluggish start and never recovered as the Cardinals led the entire contest in their 72-68 victory.

Huntington (16-1) fell behind 19-14 at the end of the first quarter and fell behind by as much as 11 point before making it interesting at the end. The Highlanders trailed Scott County (21-1) 52-46 entering the final period, but Mayo's bucket with 14 seconds remaining made the score 68-66. The Cardinals' Matt Walls then nailed two few throws after the Highlanders fouled and he made two more clutch free throws after an offensive rebound put back bucket by Huntington's Patrick Patterson with only four seconds to play as Kentucky's top-ranked club stunned the nation's top ranked club.

Scott County entered the contest ranked No. 9 in the Student Sports Midwest regional rankings and word of its win over Huntington spread quickly.

"We found out right when they lost, really, as the final seconds ticked off," lamented longtime Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA) assistant coach Yerrick Stoneman after the Warriors downed Orange (CA) Lutheran, 92-62, Friday night at the NIKE Extravaganza in Santa Ana, California.

Huntington's loss likely means the 2006-2007 FAB 50 national champion will have tasted defeat this season and opens the door for one-loss squads such as No. 2 Oak Hill, No. 3 St. Patrick (Elizabeth, NJ) and No. 4 South Medford (Medford, OR).

"We still have 11 games to go…we still got to do what we have to do," remarked Oak Hill junior point guard Brandon Jennings moments after the Warriors' 30-point win. "We're going to take it game-by-game and hopefully we win the last 11."

Jennings led the Oak Hill (31-1) attack with 25 points, including five three-pointers. Two of his triples came at the end of quarters, as the California native hit a 25-footer at the halftime buzzer to give the Warriors a 53-28 lead and a 30-footer to give Oak Hill a 80-39 lead at the end of the third period.

"Sure, we are going to use it as a motivational tool the rest of the way, especially when a game like this… it was tough to get up for," Stoneman explained. "It won't be like this tomorrow...the gym will be packed."

Saturday, the Warriors face No. 43 Fairfax (Los Angeles, CA) while No. 9 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) hosts No. 10 Lake Oswego (Lake Oswego, OR) in the two marquee match ups in an eight-game slate at the NIKE Extravaganza.

"We don't play for a state title, so naturally our goal (Oak Hill) is to win the mythical national title every year," Stoneman remarked. "After we found out Huntington lost, we told the guys not too many teams get a second chance (at the national title). We still have quality opponents to face."

In addition to facing Fairfax, Oak Hill still faces tough teams such as Prep Charter (Philadelphia, PA). Meanwhile, No. 3 St. Patrick still has to face Huntington on February 22 not to mention the tough Tournament of Champions looming at the end of the season.

Before Huntington has to face St. Patrick and tries to win its third consecutive West Virginia Class AAA state title, the Highlanders will lose Mayo when they try to avenge Friday night's loss to Scott County on February 15 at Veterans Memorial Field House in Huntington. Mayo will reportedly miss the rematch plus three other games because of self-imposed disciplinary action taken by Huntington High, which essentially ends the WVSSAC's inquiry to Mayo's original two-game suspension.


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