Oneida shot the ball well and dominated the glass against Tellico Plains in the Region 2-A quarterfinals at OHS Gymnasium Friday, riding that advantage to a 59-55 win over the Bears.
The Lady Indians (23-8) advanced to the semifinals of the region tournament for the first time since 2009, while Tellico Plains ended its season with a record of 19-12.
Oneida entered the game short-handed, playing without Micah Stephens. Stephens is serving an automatic two-game suspension, according to TSSAA rules, after being ejected from Monday's District 4-A championship game in Wartburg.
In the absence of the Lady Indians' leading scorer and rebounder, some young players stepped up big. Freshman Baylee Newport scored a career-high 19 points and had four assists. Sophomore Victoria Williams had her second double-double of the season, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lady Indians' seniors also played pivotal roles. Shalyn Lay had nine points and eight rebounds, while Lecretia Robbins had six points and 10 rebounds. Both rebounding totals were career-highs.
Brittany Kirkland had 17 points to lead Tellico Plains, while Jasmine Harris added 15.
Harris was strong out of the gate, but a feisty OHS student section -- with relentless chants -- appeared to frustrate the Tellico Plains star, who had just four second half points.
As a team, Oneida dominated the glass, holding a 46-23 rebounding advantage. While Tellico Plains had the Lady Indians out-sized, the Bears were plagued by foul trouble from the very beginning. Tori McMinn and Brayden Garren saw their minutes limited by fouls in the first and second half.
Nevertheless, Tellico Plains held a sizable free throw advantage for much of the game. At the half, Tellico was shooting 15 of 19 from the line, to Oneida's six of nine. That advantage allowed the Bears to charge back from a seven-point deficit to take a one-point lead to the intermission.
The free throw shooting evened up in the second half. For the game, Tellico Plains was 20 of 28 (71 percent). Oneida was 18 of 25 (72 percent).
The Lady Indians shot 44 percent from the field, while limiting Tellico Plains to 31 percent.
Oneida led by as much as five in the third quarter before Tellico Plains again charged back, tying the game at 39 with 2:43 remaining.
But Lay hit two huge baskets for Oneida, and the Lady Indians scored seven straight points to enter the fourth quarter with a 46-39 lead and all the momentum.
The fourth quarter saw Oneida lead by as much as seven when a pair of Baylee Newport free throws pushed the score to 55-48 with 47 seconds remaining.
But a 3-point shot by Brittany Kirkland cut the gap to 55-51. The Bears' full-court defense, which frustrated Oneida at times and created 17 turnovers, then forced an error, and Rachel Sutton scored on a steal and basket to cut the advantage to 55-53 with 34 seconds left.
Newport made two big free throws to push the lead back to two possessions with 28 seconds left, but Tellico Plains again answered, with Harris scoring to cut the gap to 57-55.
When Newport missed the first of two free throw opportunities after an intentional foul, the Bears had a chance to tie the game, but opted to go for an easy two and risk another missed free throw at the other end. In so doing, they turned the ball over, and Oneida sealed the game with a free throw by Kelsie Caldwell, who finished with a season-high nine points.
Oneida will face District 3 winner Grace Christian Academy in Monday's semifinals in Harriman. There were conflicting reports Friday evening over whether tipoff would be 6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Grace enters the game after handedly defeating Coalfield Friday. The winner of Monday's game will advance to the region championship game and qualify for the substate.
SCORING: Oneida — Newport 19, Williams 12, Lay 9, Caldwell 9, Robbins 6, Morgan 4. Tellico Plains — Kirkland 17, Harris 15, McMinn 11, Sutton 4, Hunt 3, Cheek 3, Garren 2.