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Tigers beat Panthers in boys' quarterfinal, but lose to Lindbergh in district semifinal

It's been a while since the boys' basketball team at Oakville Senior High School has experienced a winning season.

The Tigers' last winning season dated back to the 2000-2001 campaign, in which Oakville posted a mark of 18-10 overall and reached the quarterfinal of the Class 4A state championships.

It's amazing how a program can do a complete 360-degree turn.

After Oakville's impressive run, the Tigers appeared to have a hard time at fighting off opponents as they racked up records of 10-15 during the 2001-2002 season and 10-16 in 2002-2003. That led to the departure of former head coach Terry Cochran.

Yet the 2003-2004 season marked an impressive turnaround under first-year head coach Kenny Ash, who guided the black and gold to a record of 15-11. But according to Ash, his work is far from being complete.

"It's been a roller-coaster ride," Ash explained. "But I'll tell you this, we played one tough schedule. These kids took the challenge and went toe-to-toe with some of the toughest schools in the area."

The Tigers opened the Class 5 District 8 tournament on Monday of last week with a solid 50-40 win over sister-school Mehlville. The win not only helped Oakville move into the district tournament semifinal, but it signified a feat that is tough for many teams to accomplish. The Tigers beat Mehlville three times this year.

Oakville jumped out to a solid 23-18 lead at the half, but found itself in a 32-32 battle after three quarters. It was then that Oakville dug down deep and found a little more fire from inside.

"Got to give some credit to our kids," Ash said. "When they faced some adversity, they really stepped it up."

The Tigers' Drew Martin led all scorers with a night that many players would call a career evening.

The junior center hammered out 20 points while pounding the Panthers on the boards with 20 rebounds.

Oakville senior forward Mike Schubert also scored 12 points, three assists and one rebound in the win over Mehlville.

Oakville's semifinal match against Lindbergh was quite a different affair than their quarterfinal experience against Mehlville.

The Tigers found themselves down 20-11 after the first quarter and trailing by 21 points during the second quarter of action.

At halftime, Lindbergh was holding on to a 28-21 lead.

"We were down by 21 in the first half, but these kids would not give up," Ash said.

"At halftime we had a heart-to-heart and I told our seniors that they didn't have to go out like that. These seniors have set the tone of never giving up for the rest of my career at Oakville."

Oakville tied the game at 39-39 by the end of the third quarter and the battle was in full force.

Martin again racked up 20 points, while grabbing 14 rebounds in Oakville's heartbreaking 56-54 loss to the Flyers.

Despite the loss to the Flyers, which ended their season, Ash believes that the outlook for the Tigers' program is bright and there's still a lot of work left to be done.

"A 15-11 record is nothing to write home about," Ash said. "But for some of these kids, it was their first winning season. The outlook for Oakville basketball is positive and bright."

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