OREGON – It was a scoring battle between Dixon’s Jacob Gaither and Oregon’s Trey Woolsey on Thursday night in a Big Northern Conference clash at the Blackhawk Center. It turned out to be a Gaither’s 38 points besting the 34 by Woolsey, but the Hawks prevailed 74-63.
“It was two really good players going at it,” Dixon coach Chris Harmann said. “Oregon had other guys knocking it down, though.”
The Hawks were stunned early, with Gaither going off for 16 of the Dukes’ first 18 points as they grabbed an 18-2 lead.
“I told our guys before the game we needed to key on him and help out,” Oregon coach Quinn Virgil said.
The Hawks eventually righted the ship, with Eli Rufer starting a rally with a basket. That started after Riley Abell and Nathan Long scored for Dixon to make it 25-14 Dukes early in the second quarter.
Woolsey banked in a 25-footer, then Dixon (5-20, 4-5) missed its next 16 shots. Meanwhile, defensive mavens Riley Birnbaum and Josh Sitze put pressure at the top of the key and disrupted the Dukes offense, forcing 13 turnovers in the final 25 minutes.
By the time the half ended, Oregon was up 35-28, as Sitze scored five points at the end of the second quarter.
It wasn’t until the 4:46 mark of the third quarter before Dixon scored another basket.
“We can’t have a scoring drought like that,” Harmann said.
Gaither broke it with a 3-pointer to close within 38-31. That’s when Woolsey, who only had two first-quarter points, began to take control.
He drove the lane without any Duke standing up to take a charge or grab rebounds when he missed. Twice in the third quarter, Woolsey missed three straight shots under the basket, before scoring. Each time, he grabbed the rebound, as Oregon had a 43-30 advantage on the boards.
“I was playing off my teammates. It makes it easy to score and grab boards,” the all-time leading Hawk scorer said.
Woolsey scored primarily on 25- to 30-foot shots or layups. Gaither did his damage all over the court. His 38 points are the eighth-best in a single game in Dixon biys basketball history.
“We had to lock up No. 15 [Gaither],” Sitze said.
Gaither pulled his team within 51-46 in the fourth quarter in his 29th point – his previous game high – on a play where he drove past five Hawks. Ryan Pitzer added another 3 to keep it close.
But Birnbaum had a steal and score to get the momentum back. Woolsey closed the game out in style with a behind-the-back layup and fallaway jumper with two Dukes on him.
“Woolsey had a heck of a game, but I thought we played hard all the way,” Harmann said.
Earlier in the day, Oregon (17-10) received a No. 8 seed in the sectional.
“I’m not sure what to make of that,” Virgil said. “Sometimes we play like a No. 10, and other times like a No. 4.”