The Oak Hills boys’ basketball team staged the biggest run of the game at the most important moment on Friday night to defeat Diamond Bar 73-63 in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs.
The Bulldogs trailed by one point with 2:14 left and scored 11 unanswered points en route to victory, earning a ticket to the second round against Canyon.
Michael Miller led the charge for Oak Hills in the 11-point run. In less than a minute of playing time, Miller hit a pair of free throws, stole the basketball to lead to a layup and started another fast break by assisting on a two-point field goal from Garrett Johnson.
He put an exclamation point on the run with a transition dunk to end the frenzy.
“I just play to win,” Miller said. “I try to make all the plays I can to help my team win. If I don’t score, I try to stop in defense, if I can’t stop in defense, I will find my teammates. Everything to win. That is just about everything.
Miller did more than restart the Oak Hills run as he was the contest’s top scorer. The senior captain finished with 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
But that’s nothing new for the Bulldogs.
“He’s our leader. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached and I’ve been coaching for 30 years,” Oak Hills head coach Robert Alexander said. “He knows when to pick it up, when to trust his teammates and when to make others better. He’s a real winner.
Miller’s efforts in this game were all the more important as the Bulldogs lost a key senior early in the game. Guard Johnny Castellanos fell awkwardly on his ankle on the first possession of the second quarter and did not play for the rest of the game. He joined the team on the bench in the second half on crutches.
The Bulldogs had several key players in Castellanos’ absence.
Senior Jeremiah Estrella and second Isaiah Sharky had a combined five 3-pointers after Castellano was injured in the backcourt.
Castellanos will see a specialist in Orange County and Alexander is confident his starting guard will play in the second round on the road against Canyon, who beat Victor Valley on Friday night.
“He’ll come on one wheel if he has to, he’s so good,” Alexander said.
It was the third time Oak Hills had faced Diamond Bar this season, with the Bulldogs winning the first two matchups by a final score of 69-52. The Bulldogs knew their opponent well and knew how tough this game was going to be.
“They are the 17th seed and we are the fourth seed. I don’t know why we have them in CIF, it’s really not fair to one of us because a really good team at Diamond Bar is coming home,” said Alexander. “They’re a great team and Henry (Frierson) is doing a hell of a job coaching. For us, it gave us the confidence to know that we have to survive and move on.
While Alexander says that game gave his team confidence, Miller is already planning what’s next and isn’t looking forward to Friday night’s 34-point effort.
“We just have to stick together and keep our heads up. We’ve got four more up for grabs to get a ring, that’s the goal,” Miller said.