Foxes beat buzzer, CM
Oakley Dial nets 27-points, nails 30-footer for 55-52 win

- In a season in which wins have been tough to come by for the Hamilton County Foxes, it helps when a senior can step up and deliver a victory.

On Tuesday night Hamilton County turned to veteran guard Oakley Dial who was definitely “dialed in.”

The 6-foot senior leader led the way with 27-points and he put an exclamation point on the Foxes 55-52 victory over Carrier Mills in the teams' first action since the Eldorado Holiday Tournament to begin the second half of the campaign.

Dial hit 7-of-11 shots from beyond the arc on the night, but it was the final attempt that capped off the performance.

With the game tied at 52-all and Carrier Mills inbounding the ball near mid-court, Foxes' junior guard Jake Whipple jumped in front of an errant Wildcats' pass, intercepting the ball in the Hamilton County backcourt.

He quickly got the ball to Dial who calmly took a couple of dribbles before launching a shot from the right side of the arc and way behind the line.

The shot found nothing but the bottom of the net as the horn sounded, giving the Foxes their third win of the season.

“I didn't know we had that much time. When Whipple made the steal and passed it ahead, he looked at the clock and saw how much time he had, he took a couple of dribbles and shot it in rhythm. And it went in,” said Coach Varner. “He hit the shots and had three or four steals there at the end of the game. He was there when we really needed it. He (Dial) had a pretty good night, didn't he?”

Hamilton County won the contest in come-from-behind fashion as they pressured the Wildcats into seven fourth quarter turnovers to overcome the deficit.

Whipple also helped out in the scoring for Coach Jeremy Varner's team as he added 15-points to the book.

Six-foot-three senior Ethan Rapp tossed in six-points on the inside for the Foxes while senior Dalton Miller added four.

Senior Brody Walker led the way for Coach Keil Peebles' team with 20-points and he got help from his teammates; freshman Will Gibbs (14) and senior Justice Hill (13).

In a contest that featured several scoring bursts, the Foxes got the final one to triumph.

Carrier Mills (4-10) shot the ball well enough to beat most teams on their schedule on Tuesday night but they made too many other mistake to get the victory.

Coach Peebles team shot the ball well overall, hitting an incredible 18-of-27 from the floor (66 percent) but they committed 16-turnovers.

“Its a learning game. We've lost two games this year we should have won against good teams. The Eldorado game and this game. This is a game we should have won,” said Coach Peebles. “We had them where we wanted them and had a chance to win. We just didn't execute.”

The hosts got off to an early lead with Dial hitting his first shot, a 3-pointer from the left wing just seconds into the contest.

Ham Co then got the ball inside to Ethan Rapp, who scored four of his six-points on a couple of buckets in the lane to give the Foxes a 7-2 early edge.

Dial canned his second long-range bomb later in the first frame and junior guard Matt Rubenacker scored his only points of the game on a drive to the basket as the Foxes led 16-12 at the end of one.

Coach Varner's club was very close to blowing out the Wildcats in the second quarter but they allowed Carrier Mills to hang around late in the half.

A drive to the basket by Whipple and two more 3-pointers from Dial extended the Foxes' lead to 25-17 with 4:28 left in the second.

However Coach Varner saw his club get sloppy with the ball the remainder of the stanza, committing five-turnovers.

Carrier Mills closed the half with Gibbs hitting on a drive down the middle of the lane before adding a couple of free throws as the Wildcats closed the gap to 25-22 at intermission.

Using the momentum of that second quarter, the Wildcats carried it over into the third.

They opened the third with an 11-4 scoring move, with Hill scoring six of the points with all three baskets coming in the paint.

A Walker basket in the lane on a post up move and a free throw by Gibbs gave Carrier Mills a 33-29 edge.

Whipple retaliated for the Foxes with a three-point play but the Wildcats closed out the quarter with Gibbs hitting a 3-pointer along with a pair of free throws as Carrier Mills was in control at 40-35 heading to the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the 'Cats, the turnover bug hit them in the final eight minutes.

The Foxes scored on a pair of fast break lay ins after steals to get the rally going.

Dial added two more 3-point shots and he managed to grab his own rebound for a score to cut the Foxes deficit to 50-49.

“It took us three in a half quarters to find somebody to guard Gibbs and Walker. We didn't have anybody who would take that extra step to stop them, we mostly just fouled them,” said Coach Varner. “They shot a ton of free throws, we just couldn't stay in front of them. We put in our sophomore (Hunter) Braden, it was his first varsity action all year. He came and did what we asked him to do. We used Nate Neal out there, too. It (combination) was something we had to find, someone to stop them from driving the lane and they did a good job late.”

Carrier Mills got a score from Hill on a nice pass from Walker as the Wildcats, with 1:33 remaining, were very close to the important victory.

But Dial had more left to prove.

He came around a nice screen and got himself open in the right corner for a 20-footer that found the mark to even the score at 52-all.

Coach Peebles club had the ball and a chance get the final shot but they turned it over in a sequence in which the Foxes gave it right back as Oakley was called for traveling with :02.8.

This set up the heroic ending for the senior playmaker.

“I thought there is no way he (Dial) can make that shot, but he made it. He was hot. He scored probably eight of their last 10 or so points (11 actually) in the game,” said Coach Peebles about Oakley. “We knew coming in that Dial could shoot it a little bit but we just didn't cover him enough tonight.”

Carrier Mills won the rebounding battle almost by default. The Wildcats only missed nine field goals and grabbed five rebounds on the offensive end for an 18-13 overall advantage.

They didn't, however, take care of business well enough from the foul line.

The visitors got to the line more than the hosts but only converting 14-of-21, compared to just 6-of-11 by Hamilton County.

“I'm proud of my kids, they played hard and they are in there (lockerroom) disappointed,” said Coach Peebles. “If it doesn't hurt, if you lose a game like this and it doesn't bother you, then there is something wrong. I'm disappointed but I'm still proud of my kids.”

Hamilton County (3-9) will get back into action on Friday as they travel to Christopher, another strong 1A program that just won the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament and are coming off of a win against Trico on Tuesday night.

Carrier Mills will host Cobden on Saturday.

“Carrier Mills is a quality 1A program and Coach Peebles does a great job, they are well coached,” said Coach Varner.

Carrier Mills
Hamilton County
Carrier MIlls (52) – Hill 6 0 1-5 13, Walker 7 0 6-8 20, Gibbs 2 1 7-8 14, Austin 0 0 0-0 0, Schwartz 1 1 0-0 5, Shaw 0 0 0-0 0, Lewis 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-16, 3FG-2, FT-14-21, PF-11.

Hamilton County (55)
– N. Rapp 0 0 0-0 0, Potter 0 0 0-0 0, Whipple 6 0 3-3 15, Oakley Dial 3 7 0-0 27, Rubenacker 1 0 0-0 2, Pike 0 0 0-0 0, Braden 0 0 1-2 1, VanAbbema 0 0 0-0 0, Neal 0 0 0-0 0, MIller 1 0 2-4 4, E. Rapp 3 0 0-2 6.
2FG-20, 3FG-5, PF-6-11, PF-13.

Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.