In a battle of District 4-A’s last remaining unbeaten teams, Oneida earned a 60-50 win over Oliver Springs Tuesday evening to take a one-game lead in the race for the district’s No. 1 postseason seed.
In their first game of the season against Oliver Springs, the Lady Indians played as well as coach Marv West could have hoped in the second and third quarters, and led by as much as 16 points in the fourth before both teams emptied their bench.
Micah Stephens finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for Oneida, while Victoria Williams added 16 points and six boards, as the Lady Indians used their height advantage on the post to give the Lady Bobcats matchup problems.
After a 6-6 first quarter that saw Oneida struggle against Oliver Springs’ pressing defense, hitting just three-of-12 shot attempts and turning the ball over seven times, the Lady Indians began to find their game in the second quarter. Williams hit her first five shot attempts and finished eight-of-10 from the field, several times stepping out to hit mid-range jumpers that were difficult for Oliver Springs to defend.
Sophomore point guard Baylee Newport distributed the ball well for Oneida, finishing with a season-high 10 assists.
The Lady Indians’ defense, meanwhile, limited Oliver Springs to just 33 percent shooting from the field, including 1-of-13 from 3-point range.
Rachel Griffith scored 15 points to lead the Lady Bobcats in scoring. But no other player scored more than seven for Michelle Christopher’s team.
The win, which improved Oneida to 5-0 in District 4-A play, was the Lady Indians’ first win over the Lady Bobcats since 2012, and just Oneida’s sixth win in 22 meetings since Oliver Springs joined District 4-A in 2005.
After the 6-6 tie in the first quarter, Oneida went on a 13-2 run to start the second quarter and never looked back. A jumper by Rachel Smith with 3:49 to play was Oliver Springs’ first field goal of the second quarter and ended the Lady Indians’ run, but Oneida would keep the lead in double digits going into the second half.
Oneida led by as much as 18 points in the third quarter when Rachel Thomas hit a 3-point shot with 1:32 to play. Oliver Springs pulled as close as 13 in the fourth quarter when Courtney Jones scored, but the Lady Indians would allow the Lady Bobcats to pull no closer until both teams had begun subbing heavily near the end of the game.
Following the game, Oneida coach Marv West pointed at the championship banners that hang from the rafters in OHS Gymnasium.
“I’ve been talking to our girls a lot about tradition,” West said. “And now I think we’re getting back to where we want to be.”
Oneida, once a perennial favorite to win District 4, last won the district in 2004 — the season before Oliver Springs joined the district. The Lady Indians have twice lost in the district title game since then, both times to the Lady Bobcats.
While West acknowledged that a Feb. 7 rematch with Oliver Springs, as well as a potential matchup in the district tournament, will prove crucial to the Lady Indians’ goals, he said Oneida should expect nothing less than to compete for district championships.
ONEIDA (60): Micah Stephens (17), Victoria Williams 16, Kelsie Caldwell 8, Bayle Newport 6, Rachel Thomas 5, Shelby Thompson 4, Destini Carson 2, Jessi Morgan 2.
OLIVER SPRINGS (50): Rachel Griffith 15, Emily Griffith 7, Rachel Smith 6, Kara Topmiller 6, Courtney Jones 6, Jessica Gilmore 4, Sarah Channell 2, Alivia Baker 2, Mikaela Porter 2.