December 26, 2012 - After losing their first game of the season by just seven points, the Oakville Senior High School boys' basketball team continues to soar with its fifth consecutive win since the opener.
The latest victim was Lincoln High School in Illinois. Trailing by seven points with just two minutes left in the contest, the Tigers came from behind to force overtime and knocked off the Railsplitters in the first round of the Collinsville tournament 56-49 in a heart-stopping finale Thursday night. The Railsplitters were seeded No. 4 in the tournament.
Oakville head coach Nick Traxler told the Call the victory says a lot about his players.
"That's a testament to how hard these boys are working together," he said.
Power forwards Austin Gillmann and Ervin Sarajlic led the way in scoring in the contest. Gillmann had 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. Sarajlic had a total of 20 points and four assists, including sinking six three-pointers on the night.
Both are juniors and lead the team in scoring last season, according to Traxler.
"Both are just very humble young men and very good basketball players," the Oakville coach said. "They put a lot of time and effort into basketball and it's starting to pay off for them."
With the offense appearing to be in sound condition, the focus for the Tigers, as with all team sports, will be on defense.
Traxler said he has seen sound improvement defensively since the beginning of the season, but knows it is a marathon.
"I'm getting more and more pleased by the day," he said. "We kind of play by the mantra, 'Get better every day,' and their defensive effort and intensity is improving. I think we've seen great improvement from day one to now, and we want to continue to get better."
With the Tigers boasting a 5-1 record, Traxler is cautiously optimistic about how things will look by the time the postseason rolls around in a few short weeks.
"We are still pretty young," he said. "The majority of our points and playing time goes to juniors and sophomores. I think they've just got to mature and come together and trust one another.
"For us, we are not going to be the most talented team out there, we are not going to be the most athletic, but if we work hard on the defensive end and play together then usually good things happen."
The Tigers were set to advance to the next phase of the tournament Friday — after the Call went to press.
Following the tournament, Oakville will host Parkway South Friday, Jan. 4.