January temperatures have been warmer than average all month long, but it was a little chilly inside the gymnasium at Oliver Springs High School on Friday.
In fact, you could’ve scraped the frost off the scorers’ table during the handshake after the Lady Indians’ 59-23 win over the Bobcats. Oliver Springs head coach Michelle Christopher dutifully shook hands with each Oneida player but didn’t utter a word, and didn’t even pause as she briefly shook the hand of her long-time coaching rival, Oneida’s Marv West.
To understand the frostiness of the coaches’ handshake, you have to understand the backstory behind the way Friday’s game ended. Specifically, you have to go back to a game at OHS Gymnasium on January 12, 2016.
In Friday’s game, the Lady Indians were comfortably in front most of the way, turning a 9-point halftime lead into a 20-point margin as the fourth quarter began. But Oneida saved its best for last, going on a 22-6 run in the fourth quarter that caused the lead to swell all the way to 36 points and ended the game with a running clock.
Simply put, the Lady Indians didn’t really call off the dogs.
That’s not entirely true; it could’ve been worse. There were no starters in the game for Oneida for the 2:32, when West took a time-out after Chloe Terry hit a 3-point shot to push the lead to 49-23.
But the Lady Indians didn’t go to the end of their bench until there was just a little over a minute remaining (for the record, they out-scored Oliver Springs 10-0 once all starters were removed, and 4-0 once they went to the end of their bench).
Some of the home-team faithful, in their purple and gold, might have thought it was a bit salty of West to keep his foot on the gas pedal until the end of the game, even though Oliver Springs had clearly thrown in the towel by that point.
But if you recall that January 2016 game at OHS Gymnasium, you won’t blame him at all.
That night, Oneida led Oliver Springs by 30 as the fourth quarter began. West went to the end of his bench for the entire fourth quarter. Christopher refused to return the favor, leaving her starters inserted as she trimmed the lead all the way to 11 points. With her starters in against Oneida’s reserves, Christopher pressed the Lady Indians’ back-up players — including Logan Lamb and Shay Buttram, who are seniors on this year’s team — relentlessly. At one point, with less than 30 seconds remaining and the deficit still at 12 points, Oliver Springs was intentionally fouling to stop the clock.
West vowed that it wouldn’t happen again.
“I’m kinda disappointed in their coaches,” he said after that 2016 game. “Most of the time, if you’re leading that big and you sub out, they sub out. I guess I won’t be so giving next time.”
The five times the two teams had squared off since then had been relatively close. Oliver Springs had won two of them; two of Oneida’s three wins had been by fewer than 10 points, including a 7-point win at OHS Gymnasium earlier this season.
But in Friday’s game at Oliver Springs, the situation was similar to that game three years ago. And West made sure it wouldn’t play out the same way. Safely said, he “wasn’t so giving” this time around.
It’s impossible for a sports writer to say that Oliver Springs’ Christopher — who is an excellent coach with lots of experience under her belt — was upset over the way the fourth quarter played out; maybe she was just having a bad day. But if she was angry that Oneida declined to call off the dogs, she needn’t have been. There’s an old saying: What goes around comes around.
And for Oliver Springs, it came around on Friday night.