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NORTH HOLLYWOOD — The Oakwood boys basketball team jumped out to an early lead against visiting Ontario Christian in a CIF Southern Section Division 3A semifinal matchup and never looked back as it cruised to a 78-65 win.
With the win the Owls (21-8) advance to the section final on Saturday February 25. They’ll face the winner of Saturday’s Bonita versus San Gabriel Academy semifinal. Oakwood will play in its fourth CIF final since ever and third since 2019. However, the school’s only CIF title victory came in 1988 with star Mitchell Butler.
Oakwood junior Oliver Wood jump started the offense with 13 points in the opening quarter as the Owls finished the first with an impressive 30-14 lead.
“I started out hot and my team acknowledged that and got me the ball in the right positions,” said Ford. “That’s all you can ask for as a teammate.”
Ontario Christian scored the first points of the night but less than a minute later, TJ Boyd (9 points) drilled a 3-pointer that put Oakwood ahead for good.
From there Wood went to work, dominating on both ends en route to a double-double that saw him finish with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“It’s huge for us,” said Oakwood coach Steve Smith. “The more players that you have that can make a play makes us more difficult to guard. We have six guys that think they’re the best guy and any one of them can go off.”
Senior Ben Eisendrath continued be Mr. Reliable for the Owls, pacing the team with 23 points. He added five assists in the win.
“He’s such an unselfish, great teammate,” said Ford. “He just opens up the floor for everybody else.”
Added Smith: “His maturation has been great. All of us coaches were point guards. Olin (Simplis) was a point guard. Brandon (Smith), I was a point guard. So we’ve been able to teach him how to maintain his composure, how to get others involved, and at the same time understanding the ebb and flow of the game and knowing when it’s time for him to attack.”
His backcourt mate, Peyton Slaughter, had 15 points, and perhaps none were bigger than a basket he scored with 4:13 remaining in the first half.
Ontario Christian was on an 8-0 run and had connected on threes on back-to-back possessions. Slaughter took a pass on the wing and blew by his defender, finishing strong at the rim to push the lead back to double digits.
“We have five guys out there who can make plays, so there’s going to be a defensive liability somewhere,” said Smith. “On that possession that guy really couldn’t stay in front of Peyton.”
Junior Hayden Suslow chipped in with eight points and 11 rebounds for Oakwood, while sophomore Owen Sacchi chipped four fourth quarter points and four rebounds in the win.
Pacing Ontario Christian was Marquis Bradley, who connected on five 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 25 points.
Alex Yang added 17 points and Cole Jones chipped in 13 for the Knights, who finish their season 19-10.