Whiteoak's Josh Hughes led the Wildcats with a game-high 26 points against their Highland County rival Lynchburg-Clay Friday at WHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Whiteoak's Josh Hughes led the Wildcats with a game-high 26 points against their Highland County rival Lynchburg-Clay Friday at WHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
MOWRYSTOWN — It was one for the ages, and that is the literal meaning for the Whiteoak Wildcats on Friday night. A starting lineup that consists of two freshmen and one sophomore, junior and senior took the visiting Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs on a ride that saw WHS lead by as many as 10 points in the final minutes of the frame between the two Southern Hills Athletic Conference counterparts.

That lead was chipped away by the Mustangs in that final minute, but in the end — even with LCHS hitting a shot at the buzzer — the Wildcats defeated their Highland County foe, 61-59 for their first win of the season.

The victory by the Wildcats moves them to 1-2 overall on the season, while the Mustangs fall to 0-3 overall.

Josh Hughes led Whiteoak and all scorers with 26 points on the night. The junior scored 13 of his 26 points in the third quarter and then had six more points in the fourth. In the first half, Hughes tallied seven points.

WHS head coach Ryan Barnett gave his thoughts on the game, including the third quarter where the game began to shift in favor of the home team Wildcats, and opinions on his team as well.

“We got a lot more patient with our offense, and we started get more disciplined and got the shots, the kind of bunnies we were looking for,” Barnett said. “The boys did a great job moving it around and being patient.

“Yeager did a heck of a job keeping (Raymond) Conner off the boards. Josh Hughes came in and stepped up defensively. Landon penetrated well, which opened things up from the outside, and Carson Emery played a real good game. I’m just proud of the boys.”

Coach Barnett also spoke about whether any changes were made at halftime.

“Not much, really,” he said. “We just really tried to keep Ray Conner off the board. He’s a pretty good ball player. If we can keep him off the boards, we’re all right.”

As for the second half, it was Lynchburg-Clay (0-1, 0-3) who went into the third frame with a halftime lead of 27-26, and they were able to add two points to that total in the very early stages of the third.

From there, though, the lead exchanged hands several times with Whiteoak’s Hughes scoring the next four points for a one-point lead for the hosts. A jumper from LC senior Raymond Conner pushed the Mustangs back in the lead, only to see Hughes again steal the ball and score two points off a fast break at the 5:49 mark of the third for a 32-31 lead.

Conner led the Mustangs with 24 points, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter, along with eight points in the first and two points in the third.

For just the third frame alone, there were five lead changes with the last one coming with 4:08 left in the third quarter when Carson Emery drove to the hoop for a two-point WHS lead of 34-33. Emery ended the game with eight points.

From there, after being fouled, Hughes scored another point from the free-throw line, but then LC made the score just a little close with a basket by Noah Miller, bringing LC back to within two points of the Whiteoak lead. Miller tallied 11 points for the Mustangs in the loss.

From that point on, the remainder of the third was a 8-0 run for Whiteoak, increasing their lead to 45-35 at the end of the third with two free throws by Hughes, a jumper from Bradley Ashbaugh — who finished the game with nine total points — and four more points by Hughes to end the frame, with the final basket assisted by Brayden Yeager.

Once the fourth frame arrived and the two teams exchanged baskets and points, Whiteoak’s Landon Barrett — a freshman — sank a wide-open 3-pointer with 5:26 left in regulation, as the young Wildcats played without fear to increase their lead to 12 points at 53-41.

LC came back with a trey by Miller, only to see Whiteoak answer with another 3-pointer, this one from the corner from Hughes to make it a 12-point WHS lead with 4:40 left in the game.

As the quarter continued, the Mustangs showed toughness, because they didn’t fold. Rather, they took a deep breath and went on a tear of their own in the SHAC game, building an 7-0 run of their own, starting with a jumper by Conner, then following a timeout, there were two converted free throws by Ian Waits. The run was wrapped up with a 3-pointer from Waits with 2:46 left in the game for a 53-48 LC deficit, cutting the Wildcat lead to five points.

Waits wrapped up the game with 12 points by making three 3-pointers and going 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.

WHS eventually built their lead back to 10 points with points scored by Emery, Barnett and Yeager — who finished with five points overall — with 1:07 on the fourth-quarter clock, but LC stayed in the game with a trey by Conner.

Hughes came back with a made free-throw attempt, but again Conner swished another 3-pointer, his third of the final frame. Miller sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer for LC to made it a two-point scoring differential as time expired, with LC outscoring Whiteoak, 24-16 in the final quarter.

“We’re a young team. We’re starting two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior. It’s taking a while. It’s starting to come together, as far as patience and basketball IQ on the floor,” Barnett said of his Wildcats. “We tried to work it around and get what we wanted and not what they wanted.

“I’m really excited. We’ve been needing this. We lost a close one against Felicity and lost to Piketon. It feels good to get a win in the league, and Lynchburg’s a Highland County rival. We’ve got them again, so it’ll be another barn-burner.”

Lynchburg-Clay head coach Matt Carson spoke highly of the Wildcats and knows his team has work to do early in the 2019-20 season.

“Credit Whiteoak, their kids played hard and made plays,” Carson said. “Our kids fought until the end, we just need to execute better. This group will figure it out... I believe in them with everything I have.”

In the first half, the Mustangs led 15-14 at the end of the first quarter with LC having eight of those points from Conner, plus four points by Miller and a 3-pointer made by Waits.

The first frame for WHS included a six-point effort by Landon Barnett, five points by Hughes, a two-point basket from Emery and a free-throw conversion by Yeager.

Barnett totaled 13 points in the Whiteoak with four two-point buckets, one 3-pointer and he was 2-of-3 from the free-throw line.

Both teams scored 12 points each in the second half, with LC spreading out the scoring as Brady Chisman scored five points in the quarter with a 3-pointer and two-point basket. Waits made a 3-pointer in the second, while Miller and Gavin Stroop each scored two points.

Whiteoak’s second quarter consisted of five points by Ashbaugh (including a 3-pointer), three points from Emery and two points apiece by Hughes and Yeager.

For the game, the Wildcats made 20 two-point baskets, three 3-pointers and were 12-of-21 from the free-throw line. Lynchburg-Clay totaled 14 two-point field goals, eight 3-pointers and they were 7-of-9 from the free-throw line.

Other LCHS final scoring included two points from Stroop, four points by David Giordano and five points off a 3-pointer and two-point basket from Pat Brown in the second quarter.