“Those guys are just as good as everybody says – they’re ranked No. 1 in the country,” said Dudley coach David Price said of Oak Hill. “If we don’t turn it over and box out, then the game would be much closer, but that’s easy to say when you’re playing against guys like that.”
Oak Hill took the lead from the outset, though a 15-2 run fueled by Lawson – who attacked the hoop, had an open-court steal which he converted on the other end, and hit a deep three-pointer – pushed the lead to 35-15 mid-way through the second quarter.
“You need to keep him out of the paint,” Price said of Lawson. “Early on, he got into the paint. When you can shoot it as deep as he can shoot it, and as quick as he is and can get to the hole, he creates a lot.”
A 15-point Oak Hill lead at halftime was quickly cut down to eight points at 46-38 as Graves came out of the locker room firing. He hit three of his first four three-point attempts in the quarter – all of which were tightly contested shots – and also added a strong “and-1” from close range, totaling 12 points in the third quarter alone.
“I wanted to switch and check him because he was just killing it out there,” Lawson said. “The game was getting close.”
But Oak Hill clamped down on defense, while Lawson took over on offense, and a 9-0 run quickly put the game out of reach before the end of the third quarter. The future Tar Heel floor general penetrated the defense at will, taking the ball all the way to the rim in a half court set three times, including two “and-1’s,” but then firing from long range when the defense backed off He had 11 points in the quarter
“He’s a fast player and hard to guard,” Graves said of his future teammate in Chapel Hill. “You don’t know what to do – if you get up on him he’ll go around you, if you back off he’ll shoot it on you.”
Lawson finished the game with his 30 points coming on an efficient 12-of-18 shooting from the field (3-6 3pt).
“When things go bad, he just has a tendency just to take over,” said Oak Hill coach Steve Smith. “He forces his will on the game when things don’t go right and he just takes over.”
Lacking the type of Division I-bound teammates that Lawson has at his disposal, Graves was Dudley’s only go-to guy and ended up shooting 11-of-26 from the field and 3-of-10 on three-pointers. His 30 points required far more shots than Lawson’s, but as Smith noted, Graves was guarded by a top-nothc defender.
“[Duke commitment] Nolan Smith is a great defender who was guarding him … and he got 30 on Nolan,” Smith said. “Nolan has guarded some great players this year already, and shut down some All-Americans and gave them problems. This is the first guy who has been able to do that to him.”
While Oak Hill continued its undefeated season, Dudley suffered its third loss on the long weekend against elite competition and now the state’s defending champs are ready to feast on conference foes.
“It was a great learning experience [this weekend],” Graves said, “and now we get to go into the conference and take it out on them.”