COALFIELD — Oneida nearly pulled off a rally for the ages in a district road game here Friday night.
But Coalfield was able to survive — just barely — to upset the Lady Indians in the District 3-A opener, taking a 69-66 win.
The Lady Jackets had an 11-point lead with two minutes to play, then saw that margin collapse in a hurry as Oneida rallied to get as close as one point at 67-66 with 16 seconds remaining. Ultimately, though, Coalfield survived.
Oneida started the game strong. The Lady Indians scored 20 first quarter points and had an 8-point lead, and continued to lead until halftime.
But the second half was a different story. Gabbi Lowe scored eight of her 20 points in the third quarter, and the Lady Jackets put up 22 points to grab a 46-44 lead as the fourth quarter began. Then Alexis Morrison, Coalfield’s powerful post player, took over. She scored 11 of her 20 in the final period to help her team build the double-digit lead late.
“I knew they were going to cause us problems inside, and that was evident within five seconds of the game starting,” Oneida head coach Marv West said.
Teams with strong post play were a concern for Oneida entering the season. The Lady Indians do not have a true post player on their roster.
“We’ve got to figure out how to play post defense,” West said. “I’ve not done a great job teaching that. We’ve got to double team and get out of it quicker. There’s just so much stuff we’ve got to go over and you’ve only got so much time.”
Kelsey Pike scored 20 to lead Oneida in scoring, while Braelyn Russ added 12.
Finally, after Coalfield built the lead to 11 points with two minutes to play, the switch flipped for Oneida. First Raylie Bush scored. Then Bush forced a turnover on the other end, leading to a Pike jumper in the paint. Then Faith Cross forced a turnover, which led to a Pike 3-pointer, and the lead shrank to four points.
From there, Rachel Elmore stole the ball in rear court, was fouled, and hit both ends of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, cutting Coalfield’s lead to 66-64. After Jayleigh Bunch hit a free throw on the opposite end, Cross rebounded the miss on the bonus. That gave Pike a look at a 3-pointer to tie the game, but it was off the mark.
Coalfield missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity on the next possession, and Pike scored on a layup to make it 67-66 with 16 seconds left. After Lowe calmly knocked down two free throws to make it a 3-point game, Oneida had a chance to tie, but Pike’s 3-pointer was just short and Morrison rebounded to seal it for the Lady Jackets.
“We’ve got to do a better job of executing our stuff,” West said. “It’s hard because none of these girls have been in these district games, other than Kelsey, and they don’t get it. They don’t understand how to handle their emotions, how to handle things mentally. I thought some of them did some great things at times, but it’s just the little things.”
ONEIDA (66): Pike 20, Russ 12, Bush 9, Elmore 8, Smith 7, Terry 7, Cross 3.
COALFIELD (69): Lowe 20, Morrison 20, Bunch 13, Jackson 10, West 4, VonAchen 2.