WARTBURG — One year ago, Oneida left Dallas R. Davis Gymnasium here feeling that it had let the District 4-A championship slip away after falling to the home-standing Lady Bulldogs.
On Tuesday, the Lady Indians will have another opportunity at the same goal, after defeating the same Wartburg team Saturday evening, 61-49.
Oneida built a 15-point lead in Saturday's first district semifinal game, then withstood a surge by the Lady Bulldogs in the second half before securing the game late in the fourth quarter.
District MVP Micah Stephens scored 18 points to lead all scorers. Wartburg's Olivia Hamby had 17.
Stephens scored six points in the first quarter as the Lady Indians surged to an 18-5 lead and appeared on their way to a comfortable win over the fourth-seeded Lady Bulldogs. But Wartburg had other thoughts in mind.
After trailing by as much as 15 points in the second quarter, Wartburg began to chip away at the lead late, cutting the deficit to 26-17 at the half. Hamby scored Wartburg's last eight points of the half, including a pair of 3-point shots, to help the Lady Bulldogs make a game of it.
The third quarter would start much the same way. After shooting just 29 percent in the first half, Wartburg could not miss in the third quarter, answering Oneida score-for-score and picking up a few possessions along the way, eventually trimming the lead to five points.
Oneida senior Rachael Thomas, who finished with 17 points, had a big third quarter, with four 3-point shots in the period. Those shots helped the Lady Indians expand the lead back to double digits, 45-34. But Wartburg was not finished.
The Lady Bulldogs closed out the third quarter with back-to-back 3-point shots, then started the fourth quarter with a bucket to cut the gap to 45-42. But Baylee Newport, who finished with 11 points, hit a 3-pointer the next trip downcourt for the Lady Indians, and Wartburg's run was over. The Lady Indians would go on to extend the lead to double digits again, 52-42, before Wartburg's next score.
Newport finished with six rebounds for Oneida, while Stephens hauled in eight rebounds. Senior Destini Carson, meanwhile, finished with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The loss ended Wartburg's 3-year reign as District 4-A champions.
The win, meanwhile, propelled Oneida to Tuesday's championship game against Oliver Springs. The Bobcats advanced to the title game with a 39-38, come-from-behind win over Oakdale Saturday.
The Lady Indians and Oliver Springs each lost just one regular season game in district play, with each falling on the other's home court.
Oneida has not won the District 4-A tournament since 2004.
ONEIDA (61): Micah Stephens 18, Rachael Thomas 17, Baylee Newport 11, Destini Carson 10, Jessi Morgan 4, Kelsie Caldwell 2.
WARTBURG (49): Olivia Hamby 17, Nina Carter 14, Savannah Melton 8, Kristie Phillips 7, Hannah Barnette 3.