OREGON – Rockford Christian’s Marcus Hill and Oregon’s Trey Woolsey have been lighting things up at the Oregon Thanksgiving Tournament most of the week, so it was fitting that the championship of that tournament would come down to their two teams.
Both stars had their shots falling early and often, with Hill outscoring Woolsey by three, but it was Woolsey’s Hawks who came away with the 78-60 win to claim the championship of their home tournament.
“We haven’t had one in a minute, so it feels good,” Woolsey said.
Woolsey scored 23 points, 12 of those in the first quarter, while Hill scored 26 to lead the Royal Lions. That continued a recurring theme all week. In semifinal games on Saturday, Woolsey scored 19 in the Hawks’ 60-57 win over Aquin, while Hill had 39 in a 72-60 win over Newman. During pool-play games, Hill had 30 in a Monday win over the Rock Island junior varsity and 25 in a win over Morrison on Friday. Woolsey scored 38 Monday in a win over South Beloit, and had 42 Wednesday against Christian Life.
Woolsey had 12 in the first quarter alone, taking the opening tip-off, dribbling to the arc, and nailing a 3-pointer just seconds into the game. He would add another basket in the paint followed by another 3-pointer to put Oregon ahead 10-3, then later in the quarter on back-to-back possessions he drove to the rim for a basket, then got a steal on the other end and turned that into a layup for a 14-8 Oregon lead. At that point, he had 12 of the Hawks’ 14 points, with the other two coming on an Eli Rufer basket on a back-door cut off a pass from Woolsey.
That assist came off a drive-and-dish, which for a time led to Rockford Christian’s defense to sag off Woolsey a bit, only to have him knock down a few long-range shots.
“That’s when my 3s started to open up,” Woolsey said. “I was driving to the basket and I was getting charges, but I saw they were sagging off, and that’s when that 3 started going up.”
Hill had a pair of first-quarter baskets, both from 3-point range, then had 19 points in the second half.
“Marcus is on a different level,” Rockford Christian coach Isaiah Johnson said. “He is very creative. One of the things we have to do with him is actually give that up and give someone a second pass. A lot of times when he gets the ball early and he’s not able to get downhill, he needs to get it up and make them play defense, and then he’s just tough to guard. He’s tough to guard once we make them rotate defensively.”
But Woolsey got far more help from those around him. While Andru Garcia-Flores was the Lions’ second-leading scorer with nine points (all in the first half), the Hawks got 13 points from Ryker Finch, 12 from Riley Birnbaum, 10 from Noah Campos, and nine each from Rufer and Josh Sitze.
“[Woolsey] put up a lot of points, and we didn’t do exactly what we wanted to do,” Johnson said. “We didn’t mind him so much scoring a lot of points, but then when his his teammates got involved in the scoring, it was difficult. If he scores 25 or 30 and we hold the rest of them to two or four, we’re fine. We didn’t do that.”
Sitze, coming off the bench, also had eight rebounds and spent much of the game guarding Hill.
“Josh does a really good job, and is a great on-the-ball defender,” Oregon coach Quinn Virgil said. “He’s long. He’s fast. We were just trying to keep between [Hill] and the rim, and make sure once he got a little step on him that we got some help coming. No free glasses, we didn’t want any free-glass looks, and I think we did a pretty good job for the most part.”
Oregon’s group of guys-not-named-Trey came up huge in the second quarter. Woolsey was whistled for a foul early in the quarter and went to the bench with the Lions up 20-19, with Hill soon adding a free throw to make it 21-19. Woolsey came back for one possession of the second quarter, but got whistled for a charge driving the lane against Garcia-Flores and was on the bench for the rest of the half.
Meanwhile, the Hawks went on a 16-8 run to take a six-point lead into the break. Finch hit a jumper to tie the score with 6:02 left in the half, and Campos added a pull-up jumper on the next possession to put Oregon in front. After Garcia-Flores hit a 3-pointer, Campos added another basket and Rufer converted a three-point play.
Rockford Christian’s Michael Hodges hit a 3-pointer to put the Lions up 29-28, and on Oregon’s next trip down the floor, Hill got a steal and drove the other way, but missed the dunk and hung on the rim trying to stuff in the putback, resulting in a technical foul which put Campos on the line to hit a pair of free throws.
Oregon never trailed again.
“Just moving the ball around, trying not to take dumb 3s and quick shots,” said Finch of the second-quarter run. “Just find the open guy.”
Oregon led 35-29 at halftime and extended that lead to 37-29 early in the third after Finch hit a jumper. But Rockford Christian came storming back, using a press to create turnovers on four straight Oregon possessions. Hill hit a basket in the paint and Isaiah Johnson Jr. hit a 3-pointer before Hill added a steal and layup to cut the lead to 37-36.
Oregon then responded with an 18-3 run.
“We had to not get so excited with the ball,” Virgil said. “They pressure quite a bit. We wanted to get a good shot, we got some back doors, which was huge, then finally got a couple stops. We were able to take off.”
Birnbaum started the run with a putback, and Rufer followed by rebounding a long miss off a 3-pointer and taking it the other way for a layup. Finch added a 3-pointer, Woolsey got a bucket driving to the rim, Sitze added a layup, and Woolsey hit a 3-pointer to make it 51-38. Birnbaum then got a steal and a layup, and Campos hit a basket in the paint.
In a game where both teams were more than happy to push the pace, Oregon committed 17 turnovers, with six of those coming in the third quarter.
“Some of our decision-making was not the greatest, but defensively we were able to get back and get a stop when we needed to get a stop, and we were able to string three or four stops together,” Virgil said.
Oregon Thanksgiving Tournament final
Oregon 78, Rockford Christian 60
Star of the game: Trey Woolsey, Oregon, 23 points, 5 rebounds
Key performers: Marcus Hill, Rockford Christian, 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals; Ryker Finch, Oregon, 13 points, 8 rebounds; Josh Sitze, Oregon, 9 points, 8 rebounds; Riley Birnbaum, Oregon, 12 points, 6 rebounds; Noah Campos, Oregon, 10 points; Andru Garcia-Flores, Rockford Christian, 9 points
Up next: Oregon at Harvard, 7 p.m. Tuesday