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Oak Hill boys return home after road trip

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

Anyone needing a local basketball fix over the next three nights has plenty to choose from.

The battle for the men’s Crossroad League championship continues in Upland tonight when NAIA Division II No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan (13-5, 4-2 in CL) visits its closest rival, No. 24 Taylor (11-7, 2-4) in a meeting of teams that struggled a bit through the holidays. The game tips at 7 p.m. in Odle Arena.

IWU rebounded from likely its worst performance of the 2017-18 season, an 84-79 home loss to Mount Vernon Nazarene on Jan. 3, with perhaps its best, dismantling No. 14 Bethel, 91-70 in Mishawaka on Saturday.

Freshman guard Kyle Mangas continued his pursuit of being not only the league’s top newcomer but perhaps its most valuable player with a 27-point outburst against the Pilots. Mangas is currently second in the Crossroads in scoring, averaging just over 20 points per game. The Warsaw High School product and 2017 Indiana All Star is making better than 53 percent of his shots from the floor and adds five rebounds and more than three assists a night.

Kansas transfer, 6-foot-11 Evan Maxwell, is scoring 16.1 points and pulling down 7.1 rebounds per contest for IWU while Jacob Johnson, who recently missed some time with a knee injury, scores 12.5 per game. IWU’s other 2017 Indiana All Star, Connersville-product Grant Smith, scores just under 10 points a game off the Wildcats’ bench.

After starting the season with seven straight wins, the Trojans have dropped seven of their past 11 games, including a 73-71 decision Saturday at Marian.

The Trojans have a balanced offense being led by sophomore guards Ryan Robinson (16.6 points) and Tipton-product, Mason Degenkolb (15.1 points) with juniors Jake Heggeland (12.9 points, 6.8 rebounds) and Evan Crowe (11.5 points, 5.2 rebounds) leading the way.

The women’s game between the Wildcats and Trojans tips at 7 p.m. Wednesday and features the first meeting between coaches Ethan Whaley of IWU and Taylor’s Jody Martinez.

No. 15 Indiana Wesleyan (14-4, 6-0 in CL) will try to maintain its slim lead over No. 5 Marian (16-2, 5-1) in the conference standings and will need to fend off the surging Trojans (11-7, 4-2) to do so. The Wildcats handed Marian its only league loss, 72-67 on Dec. 6. Marian used a big fourth quarter to slip past Taylor, 75-66, Saturday in Indianapolis.

The most intriguing high school game tonight features a long awaited return home for the Class 2A No. 6 Oak Hill boys (9-4).

The Golden Eagles have played their last nine games away from home, and the road was a bumpy ride against some very tough competition. Oak Hill has lost three of its last four, with losses to 3A No. 2 New Castle and 4A No. 7 Floyd Central on Dec. 30 in the Hall of Fame Classic. Oak Hill earned a win at Peru on Friday before falling to nationally ranked Covington Catholic (Kentucky) Saturday in Cecilia, Kentucky.

It likely won’t be easy tonight either as Class A No. 11 Southwood (8-2) pays a visit. The Knights have nearly the same team intact that eliminated the Golden Eagles from the sectional on March 3, 2017 with a 60-52 win at Oak Hill.

Since dropping its first two games of the season - to Wapahani (65-62, Nov. 21) and at Huntington North (49-46, Dec. 1) - Southwood has ripped off eight-straight wins and captured the Wabash County tourney Dec. 30.

The Knights are being led by a trio of seniors, guards Carson Blair (17.9 points) and Peyton Trexler (17.7 points), along with post-player Matt Nose (13.4 points). Junior Dallas Holmes (15.5 points, 7.8 rebounds) also plays a key role for Southwood.

Oak Hill hopes to have its leading scorer, senior Spencer Ballinger (15.6 points) back to full health, as he played only sparingly in Kentucky on Saturday with an illness. Seniors Caleb Middlesworth (15.1 points, 7.5 rebounds), David Arens (11.1 points) and Tyce Frank (8.5 points, 5.1 assists) hope to use a decided size advantage to get back on track against the Knights. 

Oak Hill earned an 83-61 regular-season win at Southwood last season.

Highlighting tonight’s girls schedule is a county-rivalry game and possible sectional matchup when a much improved, 3A No. 18 Marion (13-2) travels to Gas City to meet an improving Mississinewa (9-7).

The Giants are winners of six straight and the Indians are 6-3 in their last nine with two of those losses coming to Class 2A No. 1 Oak Hill.  

Other girls games tonight include: Madison-Grant (5-11) going to Taylor (2-14) for a 6 p.m., varsity only game and Eastbrook (5-10) hosting Wabash (8-8) at 7:30 p.m. 

Wednesday night’s highlight will feature one of the top girls games in the state when Class 3A No. 1 Northwestern (19-1) pays a visit to Oak Hill (15-1) at 7:30 p.m.

Northwestern is unbeaten against Indiana schools, with its only loss coming to Louisville Mercy, 65-63 on Dec. 2. The Golden Eagles only setback came against Fort Wayne South, 59-45 on Dec. 22.

Other Wednesday games include: Mississinewa (5-5) hosting Bellmont (5-9) at 7:30 p.m. in a potential boys sectional matchup. Marion girls will take a short drive down Ind. 37 for a meeting with Elwood (6-12) at 7:30 p.m.

Mississinewa’s girls travel to Northfield (11-5) for a 7:30 p.m. game on Thursday.