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Oak Hill boys top Liberty; Jackson gets 100th win

Jan. 25—OAK HILL — Nine years in, Benitez Jackson is still living the dream.

Jackson, a 1998 Oak Hill High graduate who was a starter for the Red Devils' basketball team during his playing days, eventually achieved what he said was a lifetime goal in 2015 when he was handed the reins of the Red Devil boys high school program.

On Tuesday, Jackson continued that dream by achieving his 100th career head coaching victory, a 62-42 defeat of the visiting Liberty Raiders on Fred Ferri Jr. Court at the Lilly Center. After the contest, he was recognized by his fellow coaches, players and supporters with a brief ceremony in the locker room. As of Tuesday, Jackson's Oak Hill squads have compiled a 100-84 record.

"I had no clue," Jackson said of the milestone. "No, I had no clue. I mean it's great, but any time you get that, there's a lot of people besides myself responsible for stuff like that, you know. Coach (assistant Andy) Kees, he should get just as much credit as I do. He's been here the whole time I've been here.

"You know, my system is really good. I've got a winning system and I've had some really good players. You don't win without good players, so a lot of people get the same amount of credit that I do. And I have a really good staff, I always have, starting with Coach Kees, who's been, really right beside me the whole nine years I've been here."

"You know, every day (I'm living the dream)," Jackson added. "I really am. Every day. You know, Oak Hill, I love Oak Hill. I always wanted to be the head coach here at Oak Hill. I've been here nine years. It's a lot of work, but I got good people around me who make it fun to be here. I got good kids, who kind of buy into what we're trying to do. They let me coach 'em. For me, I'll be honest, for me, it's been an honor to be here. This is my hometown. It's where I played. It's where my family played. It's where my Dad played and coached here, so it's been great for me."

Jackson was an assistant coach for his alma mater and Greater Beckley Christian before he assumed control of the Red Devil varsity program beginning with the 2015-16 campaign, replacing Wes Brown. He was on Fred Ferri Jr.'s Oak Hill staff for 11 seasons, helping lead the Red Devils to two straight Class AA state championships, and he was an assistant when Greater Beckley Christian advanced to the Class A state tournament in 2013.

Jackson guided an OHHS team of his own to the state tournament in 2018-19. The Red Devils lost 49-36 to Robert C. Byrd in the Class AA quarterfinal stage.

On Tuesday, Oak Hill led 28-17 following a first half that included some sloppy play on both sides. The Red Devils' Armonyi Hicks and Malachi Lewis converted on consecutive drives to hand the hosts an 11-4 lead midway through the opening quarter. The Raiders later pulled to within two points, 11-9, on a two-pointer from Colten Acord. The Red Devils, however, ended the first quarter with a flurry, as Trevor Kelley buried a 3-pointer from the right corner before launching a long pass on the next possession to Lewis for two points and a 16-9 OHHS lead.

With Oak Hill leading 18-13 in the second frame, Kelley scored off a drive-and-dish assist from Brent Conley, then Hicks converted in transition for a 22-13 Oak Hill cushion. The Raiders crept back to within 22-17 on a drive by Brayden Hatfield with inside a minute to play before Lewis converted a three-point play to push the lead back out to 25-17. At that point, Conley allowed his team to carry a 28-17 lead into the locker room at intermission when he collected an inbound pass from Kelley and successfully drilled a difficult 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer.

Oak Hill went up 30-17 on an Andre Wright layup at the outset of the third period, and the Red Devils later moved ahead 40-22 on an inside deuce from Kelley following a Lewis assist. The quarter ended with the hosts in control, 46-27.

"I thought it was kinda sloppy," Jackson said of his team's effort. "I, you know, I don't want to take anything away from Liberty, I thought they played harder than we did today, but I thought we kinda slept-walked through part of it. Yeah, I thought we slept-walked through the game.

"You know, we ain't played in two weeks. We ain't played in two weeks and we've practiced like three times in 14 days. But you know, everybody's going through that. That's no excuse. We anticipated going into the game with being a little sloppy. I didn't know how we would shoot the ball. We kind of got out of our rhythm. We gotta get our legs back, but I didn't think they played very well. I didn't think they played hard enough ... and I didn't think we played with any kind of sense of urgency at all."

Lewis closed out the evening with 21 points, including 12 in the first half, to power the Oak Hill attack. Kelley added nine and Hicks eight.

Kris Bowman and Jaden Acord tallied 12 each for Liberty, and Riley Marty chipped in nine.

In the junior varsity game, Oak Hill coasted to an 85-32 triumph. Carson Treadway scored 15 for Oak Hill, and teammates Antoine Hicks and Aiden Smith added 14 and 11 points, respectively. Others in the scoring column were: Ivan Perdue, 4; Carter Richardson, 6; Ronald Thomas, 9; Isaiah Rinehart, 8; Thomas Jones, 4; Caleb Compton, 7; and Noah Floyd, 7.

Aiden Tabor and Landon Lusk scored eight each for Liberty. Also providing offense were: Bryson Fox, 2; Brayden Hatfield, 6; Teagan Houck, 6; and Tucker Lambert, 2.

The Oak Hill varsity (4-5) was scheduled to entertain Riverside in a makeup game on Wednesday, then travels to Princeton for a 7 p.m. contest on Friday.

"We've gotta play a little bit harder," Jackson said of the looming schedule. "I think we lost some of our defensive principles. I didn't think we communicated well on defense. I just think we've gotta play with a lot more sense of urgency tomorrow. They're (Riverside) going to play hard. They've got really good guards that shoot the ball pretty well for them."

"I didn't think we stopped the ball today, either," he concluded. "I don't think we guarded the ball very well. I don't know if we was tired, but there's really no excuse for that. We've got guys that can play. We just gotta get more consistency out of the guys. If we don't play better tomorrow, we're gonna have a tough game tomorrow."

Liberty (1-8) hosts Man on Thursday.

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Liberty

Kris Bowman 5 1-4 12, Colten Acord 3 0-3 7, Riley Marty 3 3-7 9, Jaden Acord 5 2-2 12, Brayden Hatfield 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 17 6-17 42

Oak Hill

Jacob Blankenship 1 0-0 2, Armonyi Hicks 4 0-0 8, Andre Wright 2 0-0 4, Levi Kiszka 2 0-0 4, Cole Nelson 1 0-0 3, Malachi Lewis 7 7-7 21, Carter Richardson 1 0-0 2, Brent Conley 3 0-0 7, Trevor Kelley 4 0-0 9, Thomas Jones 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 26 7-7 62

L 9 8 10 15 — 42

OH 16 12 18 16 — 62

Three-point goals — L: 2 (Bowman, C. Acord); OH: 3 (Nelson, Conley, Kelley). Fouled out — None.