A big second half — specifically, a big fourth quarter — propelled Oneida to an important 45-38 win over Oliver Springs in District 3-A action at OHS Gymnasium on Friday.
In what has quickly turned into a grueling battle among five different teams with legitimate hopes of capturing the district championship, the Lady Indians needed a win to separate themselves from the Bobcats, who defeated Oneida in the district opener last month.
For a while, it looked like a win might be hard to come by. Oliver Springs led by as much as seven points just before the end of the first half, 22-15.
But then things flipped.
Oneida, which shot less than 30 percent for most of the first half and started just two of nine from the free throw line, found its offense. Jayden Thomas hit a 3-point shot in the closing minute of the first half to cut the Bobcats’ lead to four points. The Lady Indians continued to claw back in the third quarter, and trailed by a single point — 28-27 — as the fourth quarter began.
In the final period, Oneida truly broke through. The Lady Indians went on an 11-2 run to seize control of the game. Along the way, they hit nine consecutive free throws to reverse what had been a detriment in the first half.
But the deciding factor was Oneida’s defense. The Lady Indians forced Oliver Springs into 32 turnovers, and had 14 steals. Harley Boyatt and Kendyl West led the way, with three steals each. That was enough to help the Lady Indians overcome a dominant effort on the boards by Oliver Springs.
The win kept Oneida in second place in the district standings, and within striking distance of league-leading Sunbright. The Lady Indians are technically in a three-way tie for second with Wartburg and Midway, but own wins over each of those two teams. However, they were to have hosted Midway on Tuesday and still have a game remaining against Wartburg. Oliver Springs, at 6-4, is in fifth place in the district. With only four spots available in the regionals once the district tournament is completed, one of the top five teams will be left on the outside looking in, making seeding more important.
ONEIDA (45): Bertram 13, Boyatt 9, Thomas 8, Lowe 6, Newport 5, Lamb 4.
OLIVER SPRINGS (38): Hester 9, Buck 8, Crass 8, Hackworth 5, Chaston 5, Davis 2, Armstrong 1.