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Dave Walsh: Defense is still Persin's specialty

Mar. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

One of coach Norm Persin's trademarks -- defense -- was on display Friday night when Oak Hill beat Sardinia Eastern in the Ohio Division III boys basketball district title game inside Ohio University's Convocation Center in Athens.

Persin-coached teams at Chesapeake for 21 years -- on what is now known as Norm Persin Court -- and now at Oak Hill make life tough for opponents right from the opening tip. The No. 2 Oaks limited the No. 1 Warriors to 15 first-half points and 14-of-49 shooting on the night on the way to a 57-35 victory.

This was the first district crown for Oak Hill since 2009 when the Oaks won the Ohio Division IV state title. For Persin, it was career win No. 643, tying him for fifth in Ohio high school boys basketball history with former Elyria coach Bob Walsh.

"We didn't think that we would hold them to 35 (points) but we told our kids all week in practice and before the game started they are going to see the best defense they've seen all year," Persin said. "We took pride in that and I said we were going to play harder and defensively better than they've seen. That took them out of their rhythm early and then naturally when you make shots, it's a lot easier to play hard defense when we're making them."

The fact Oak Hill went 7-for-7 from behind the 3-point arc in the first half didn't hurt either.

"We're capable of doing that, when we get everybody playing on (all) cylinders like that, shooting the ball, we're an excellent basketball team," Persin said. "It was just waiting for us. About the last five games we struggled shooting it and I told the kids your second game at The Convo, this is a great place to shoot."

Oak Hill returns Wednesday to the Convo for a regional semifinal contest against Piketon. If the Oaks win, and Ironton takes down Martins Ferry in the other semi, that sets up an intriguing matchup to see who goes to Columbus. Persin has had his share of battles against Ironton, both at Chesapeake and Oak Hill.

While some people might be surprised the Oaks are still playing, Persin isn't.

"I think that we've surprised a lot of people," he said. "Everybody has said Oak Hill is good, but they didn't think we could be where we are at today. I knew coming in we were a solid team. Overlooked. ... not now. Anything can happen at tournament time."

OK WITH IT: Logan entered the West Virginia Class AAA Region IV co-final with an overall record of 8-16. Wildcats coach Mark Hatcher knew some people might question their schedule, but he stressed the regular season got them ready for the postseason. Logan played Charleston Catholic, Tolsia, Tug Valley twice (0-2) and Westside twice.

"A lot of those teams will be in the state tournament," Hatcher said after Hurricane edged Logan, 64-58, in overtime at Hurricane to advance to the state tournament for the first time as a Class AAA school. "That schedule gets us prepared for what we'll see in tournament play."

KENTUCKY BASKETBALL: The Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches announced boys coach and player of the year honors for its 16 regions.

In the 16th Region, Russell's Kyle Skaggs is player of the year. Merle Kidwell of Russell and Boyd County's Randy Anderson shared coach of the year.

In the 15th region, Pikeville got a sweep with coach Bart Williams and player Ethan Rowe. The KABC East/West Charity All-Star Game was held Saturday at Transylvania University in Lexington. Skaggs and Boyd County's Austin Hunt represented the 16th Region. Rowe and Paintsville's Trevor Tiller were the 15th Region reps.

WHAT A CROWD: Attendance was 17,315 for Sunday's Boys Sweet 16 championship between Madison Central and Ballard at Rupp Arena in Lexington. That's the highest total since 2008. The title game got moved to Sunday since Kentucky and Florida met Saturday afternoon at Rupp. The two semifinal games were played Saturday night. The weekly total was 123,363 which is the highest attendance figure for a Boys Sweet 16 since 2009. Average attendance per game was 15,420.

CHAMPS AGAIN: St. Paris Graham, which opened the Ohio wrestling season with a dual win at Huntington High, won the Division II wrestling championship on Saturday. Graham had 155.5 points to 87.5 for runner-up Perry. That's 13 straight state titles and 15 overall for the Falcons. They had four state champs and three other placers.

Graham's Bo Jordan (160), Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Nathan Tomasello (120) and Dean Heil (132) of Lakewood St. Edwards each won their fourth state title with ease. They become the 23rd, 24th and 25th four-time state champions in Ohio history. Both Jordan and Tomasello are headed to Ohio State next season, while Heil is headed to Oklahoma State.

Graham's other champs were Micha Jordan (132), Eli Seipel (113) and Alex Marinelli (152). For Jordan, it was his third state crown and first each for Seipel and Marinelli.

David Walsh is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com.

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