Blair Oaks downs Versailles

Logan Bax of Blair Oaks soars toward the basket as Versailles teammates Michael Allen (40) and junior Trey Woods (1) look on during Thursday night’s Class 3 District 8 semifinal game in Wardsville.

Logan Bax of Blair Oaks soars toward the basket as Versailles teammates Michael Allen (40) and junior Trey Woods (1) look on during Thursday night’s Class 3 District 8 semifinal game in Wardsville. Katie Alaimo

WARDSVILLE, Mo. — There’s an old coaching adage that says the most important part of a basketball game is the first five minutes of the second half.

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Tony Hawley reports

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But on Thursday night, the most important thing for the Blair Oaks Falcons was the first two minutes of each half.

The Falcons outscored the Versailles Tigers by 14 points during that span, and it helped propel them to a 70-51 victory in the semifinals of the Class 3 District 8 Tournament.

Blair Oaks started the game with a 9-2 spurt, from which Versailles eventually recovered. But the 7-0 run to start the second half put the Tigers in a hole they never got out of.

“We talked about a couple things against their zone at halftime and I think we were able to get our offense going toward the rim more in the second half,” Blair Oaks coach Ryan Fick said.

In the first half, the Falcons got little production from anyone not named Kory Franks. The junior guard drilled all four of his shots in the first quarter — all of them 3-pointers — as Blair Oaks took a 17-12 lead.

“Kory shot the ball really well and he has shown the ability to do that throughout the season,” Fick said.

He added five more points in the second half, giving him 17 at halftime, but the rest of the team had just 11 as the Falcons trailed 31-28.

But the Falcons’ Chandler Haxton got in on the fun after halftime, as he hit 4-of-5 shots as part of a 24-point quarter for Blair Oaks, and the Falcons led 52-39 heading to the final period.

“They punched it in to the big kid a couple times and also hit a 3 and wrestled it away from us,” Versailles coach Kent Thomas said.

The Falcons then salted away the game in the fourth quarter by hitting 12-of-15 free throws, with Haydn Lock making 7-of-8. For the game, the senior canned 11-of-15 from the charity stripe.

After just 11 points from their interior players in the first half, the Falcons doubled that after intermission.

“We were making some jump shots early, but then we started to settle for jump shots,” Fick said. “The second half I thought we played inside-out more consistent.

“We have the ability to (make shots) in spurts, but our bigs are so important to our offense that we have to get them involved. When we were able to do that, Chandler had some big buckets and was on the offensive glass, Haydn really caught the ball well in the middle of the zone and attacked, and Logan Gratz rebounded really well.”

Another key to the win was the Falcons’ ability to limit the production of Versailles’ standout guard, Trey Woods. The junior had just five points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

“Haydn was on him for the majority of the time … and Haydn has that mentality, that toughness, that when you challenge him, more often than not he steps up and makes you proud as a coach,” Fick said. “He did a tremendous job. That’s one of the best players in our conference, if not the area.”

Thomas said it was tough to compensate for the lack of production by Woods.

“They did a good job getting physical with him and taking away some of his looks,” he said. “You’ve got to give them credit, they did a great job. He hadn’t been held to that all year.”

The Tigers did get a stellar game from post player Michael Allen, who hit an impressive 11-of-12 shots from the field on his way to 22 points.

“They did a great job all night long of running that pick-and-roll and finding their bigs when we helepd on their guards,” Fick said. “Give them a lot of credit for being able to do that.”

Allen also added a whopping 16 rebounds for Versailles.

“He was the best big on the floor, that’s pretty obvious,” Thomas said. “He out-competed their bigs and we needed that. He got to the glass and did some things that we needed him to do. We needed that because they took away our best player, our best guard. They really limited him and we needed somebody to step up and Mike did a great job.”

Borden Edgar, with 12 points, was the only other Tiger in double figures.

Franks pumped in a game-high 24 points, as he made 6-of-12 shots from 3-point range. Lock ended up with 19 and Haxton had 10.

Blair Oaks, the third seed in the tournament, upset second-seeded Versailles and avenged a 68-67 loss in overtime Feb. 14 in Versailles. Thomas said there was one big difference this time around.

“Their home floor versus our home floor,” he said. “I think the style of the game here on their floor was something that, late in the game, wore us down a little bit. The physical play took its toll on us a little bit.”

The game was played in front of a capacity crowd that featured big sections for both teams and several fans left over from the rooting sections of the night’s first game that pitted Eugene against California.

“It was a great environment, both schools had tremendous student sections and crowds that were really involved in the game,” Fick said. “Kids feed off of that. I told the kids before the game it was probably going to be the best atmosphere they’ve played in front of in their high-school careers.”

They might get one to match it Saturday night, as the Falcons will meet top-seeded Eugene at 6 p.m. for the district title.

Eugene, the third-ranked team in the state in Class 3, won both previous meetings with Blair Oaks this season — a 78-74 decision way back on Dec. 7 in the Eugene Tournament and 86-72 in the regular-season meeting Feb. 4 .

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