In what will likely go down as the biggest upset of the District 4-A postseason, No. 6 Oliver Springs stunned No. 3 Oneida Thursday with a 65-47 win at OHS Gymnasium.
On the floor where the Indians had defeated the Bobcats by 21 points just six days earlier, many already had Oneida penciled in for an anticipated rematch with No. 2 Sunbright on Saturday. But Thursday's game was a complete turnabout from the Indians' two regular season meetings with the Bobcats, as Oliver Springs led by double digits for much of the night and — with the exception of a second quarter run that saw Oneida trim a nine-point deficit to one point — dominated from start to finish.
Matt Henley scored 21 points and nine rebounds on 80 percent shooting, while John Simms added 17 points and eight rebounds, as the Bobcats were able to exploit Oneida's lack of size on the interior.
Defensively, the Bobcats were able to force Oneida to settled for 3-point shots when their attempts to penetrate Oliver Springs' defense failed. And, as Oneida coach Rusty Yaden said after the game, there was "a lid on the basket." The Indians finished just four of 30 from 3-point range.
For the game, the Indians shot 30 percent from the floor — a stark contrast from Oliver Springs' 52 percent shooting.
And while Oneida closed the rebounding advantage late, Oliver Springs set the tone early by dominating the glass on either end of the court. For the game, the Bobcats held a 36-31 rebounding advantage.
"We had already dug ourselves a hole in the second half so we had to start playing differently and do some things that aren't our strong point," Yaden said. "It just seemed like nothing went right tonight. Hats off to Oliver Springs. They deserve to be playing."
Senior Clay Jeffers ended his career at Oneida with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Cole West added 13 points and seven rebounds.
A stunned partisan crowd at OHS Gymnasium watched in near silence as Oliver Springs turned a 7-point halftime advantage into a 15-point lead early in the third quarter. The anticipated surge by Oneida never materialized, until Oliver Springs built as much as a 22-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Indians were able to rally late, cutting the margin to 14 points.
But Oliver Springs easily broke Oneida's press for a Kane Simpson — who finished with 10 points — layup and Oneida turned the ball over on the other end, effectively ending any hopes of a comeback with two minutes remaining.
The game ended a streak of 10 consecutive region tournament berths for the Indians, who will end their season in the first round of the district for the first time since 2003. Oliver Springs, meanwhile, advances to the Region 2-A tournament for the first time since 2010's run to the state tournament.
Thursday's game was the last for five Oneida seniors — Clay Jeffers, who finished his career just 42 points shy of 1,000, Noah Duncan, Austin Yaden, Tanner Boshears and Trevor Allen. With most of that group seeing court time all four years of their high school career, they contributed to 77 wins — the most of any group of Oneida seniors in over a decade.
"That's a lot of basketball games," Yaden said. "From where we were five years ago, we've turned it around. We backed up this year, obviously, and a lot of that is due to one of the people (Jake Wright) we graduated last year. We just had a big hole that we never filled.
"We don't want to be satisfied with just a winning team," Yaden added. "I think we've gotten past that point. We'll get things figured out next year and see what happens."
SCORING: Oneida — C. Jeffers 18, West 13, Allen 6, Duncan 5, Yaden 5. Oliver Springs — Henley 21, Simms 17, Simpson 10, Murray 8, Noe 6, Moss 3.