WARTBURG — As the final seconds ticked away, Baylee Newport's 3-point shot attempt from the left wing went halfway down, then rattled out, as Oliver Springs held on — just barely — for a 56-53 win and the District 4-A girls' championship here Tuesday evening.
The Oneida sophomore, who finished with 10 points and six assists, came close to forcing overtime after sparking a furious rally by the Lady Indians in the final stages of the game.
Oneida was down 13 points, 55-42, with just two minutes remaining, but a pair of running one-handed shots by Newport ignited a firestorm that nearly ended with an improbable comeback.
In the end, though, tournament MVP Emily Griffith's 25 points were just enough to allow Oliver Springs to secure its first district title since 2010.
Oneida had led by as much as 10 early, surging to a 22-12 lead in the first quarter. Micah Stephens scored 11 points and pulled down five rebounds in the first quarter en route to a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
But Oliver Springs was able to corral Stephens for much of the rest of the game, and slowly clawed back in the second quarter before finally tying the game at 28 just before the half ended.
The Bobcats took the lead in the third quarter, and eventually took a 42-38 lead to the fourth quarter.
Oneida cut a 44-38 deficit to 44-42 with just under six minutes to play, then would not score again until there was just over two minutes remaining.
Newport's back-to-back buckets cut a 13-point deficit to nine, followed by a Stephens layup to cut the gap to seven with 1:30 to play.
Still facing an uphill battle, Oneida saw Oliver Springs' Rachel Griffith hit just one of two free throws, followed by another Newport shot to cut the gap to 56-50 with a half-minute remaining.
After Emily Griffith missed the front-end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, Rachael Thomas nailed a 3-point shot to cut the gap to 56-53. Emily Griffith again missed the front-end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity after another foul, and Victoria Williams' 10th rebound of the night with 6.2 seconds to play gave Oneida a chance to force overtime.
Out of timeouts, Oneida had to quickly advance the ball up-court. Newport had a good look at the 3-pointer as time expired, but the shot narrowly missed.
The Lady Indians were looking for their first district crown since 2004, but it was not to be. Despite a season-low four turnovers, Oneida shot only 38 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line, while Oliver Springs shot a blazing 56 percent from the field.
Following the game, Oneida's Stephens, Newport and Jessi Morgan — who had a team-high 16 points — were named to the District 4-A all-tournament team.
Also named to the all-tournament team were Oakdale's Sierra Snow and Autumn Monkhouse, Wartburg's Nina Carter and Olivia Hamby, and Oliver Springs' Rachel Griffith, Lauren Morgan and Courtney Jones.
Oneida will host the first round of the Region 2-A tournament on Friday. The Lady Indians will face Tellico Plains, the same team they defeated in the first round of last year's region tournament. In fact, it is literally the same Bears team, as last year's Tellico Plains squad did not feature any seniors.
Tipoff is 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will face either Grace Christian Academy or Oakdale on Monday evening in Wartburg. GCA finished third in the regular season standings in District 3-A, but upset both Tellico Plains and Meigs County en route to the district championship. Oakdale finished fourth in District 4-A after falling to Wartburg in Tuesday's District 4-A consolation game.
ONEIDA (53): Jessi Morgan 16, Micah Stephens 16, Baylee Newport 10, Kelsie Caldwell 4, Destini Carson 3, Rachael Thomas 3, Shelby Thompson 1.
OLIVER SPRINGS (56): Emily Grifith 25, Courtney Jones 14, Rachel Griffith 10, Lauren Morgan 5, Rachel Smith 2.