Thanks in part to the energy and effort he brings on both ends of the floor, Oakdale junior Ethan Reifer has yet to taste defeat on the home floor in two seasons as a varsity boys basketball player.
“He is just a tough kid. He battles in there,” Bears coach Brandon Long said. “He is 6-foot-1 on a good day, and he is in there guarding kids who are 6-4 and 6-5, typically [the other team’s] biggest and strongest player, somebody who is going to battle, rebound and set screens. He is just a tough kid. He always wants the toughest assignment.”
In Friday’s Class 2A West championship game, Reifer came through again for Oakdale, doing the bulk of the Bears’ dirty work in a 55-47 victory over visiting Williamsport.
As the Bears celebrated their second consecutive regional championship and fifth in the last seven years, Reifer was being credited by coaches and teammates for his 10-point, five-rebound, five steal performance that carried the team to the win in the second half.
“He is the hardest worker out there at all times,” said senior Collin Schlee, who finished his final home game as a varsity athlete at Oakdale with another stellar performance (18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists).
“He’ll run up and down the floor 100 times and will not get tired. You know, it’s great having someone like that.”
In beating Williamsport (19-6) for the third time this season and second consecutive season in the regional final, Oakdale (23-3) stretched its home-court winning streak to 44 games. The Bears haven’t lost at home since February 2016.
“We practice here every day. We’ve got the environment with our fans behind us,” Reifer said. “You know, it’s just different. I don’t know.”
Seeking its first state championship in boys basketball, Oakdale will take on 2A East champion Wicomico (23-3) on Friday in a state semifinal at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.
Reifer was on the team last season that made the trip to College Park before falling to Lake Clifton 68-61, but he never got into the game on the big stage.
That will surely change next week when the Bears take on a Wicomico team making its 26th appearance in a state semifinal.
“I wanted to get back there so I could play on the court,” Reifer said. “This is just phenomenal for our team to get back down there. It’s like a legacy with our program just to get down there.”
First, Oakdale had to overcome a cold-shooting finish to the first half that allowed Williamsport to take a one-point lead at halftime. The Bears did not score for the final 4 minutes, 31 seconds of the first half.
“We weren’t worried,” Long said. “What did we shoot, 0-for-8 or 0-for-9 from 3-point land? How often do we shoot like that? Never. We knew we were going to start hitting shots.”
Reifer helped to get the Bears going with eight consecutive points in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer from in front of his team’s bench that put them ahead for good at 34-32 in the late stages of the third quarter.
“They got no offensive rebounds,” Reifer said. “We knew if we rebounded well and played good defense, we would have a good chance. We limited them, and I feel that was a key to winning.”