Girls Basketball Falls In CIC Contest Vs. Blackford

Posted on January 13, 2020 in Girl's Basketball, Winter Sports

Scott Hunt – Chronicle-Tribune

HARTFORD CITY – For the first time in more than three seasons, there are new colors and faces atop the standings in the the Central Indiana Conference girls’ basketball championship race.

It’s been at least two decades since Blackford held that lofty position, but after topping Oak Hill, 34-27 Saturday afternoon in a matchup of the last two conference unbeatens, the Bruins find themselves alone in first place in the CIC standings.

Oak Hill has dominated the CIC in winning three-consecutive league titles and the Golden Eagles had won 25-straight regular-season league games in a row before Saturday. But a pair of talented freshman combined with an aggressive and physical Bruins’ defense brought at end to that streak and put Blackford in control of its own destiny in the CIC title chase.

“They came to play today and played well,” said Oak Hill coach Todd Law of Blackford. “The longer you let a team stay in it the more confidence they get and the more confidence they get.

“When you’ve got a program that the last few years has struggled and they look at here’s Oak Hill and our reputation … I felt like they were gaining momentum the entire game which allows them to play relaxed,” he added. “Then we just got tighter as the game went on.”

Oak Hill led 7-5 after the first quarter but Blackford scored five-straight to start the second and led 10-7 with under two minutes passing when freshman Olivia Leas banked home a 3-pointer.

That would be the last of Blackford’s scoring in the quarter and the Eagles got buckets from Taylor Westgate, Kate Hornocker and Abby Shaw, who’s jumper just before the halftime buzzer put the Eagles on top, 13-10 at intermission.

Oak Hill’s biggest lead of the game was five points, at 7-2 in the opening quarter, then 15-10 and 17-12 in the third.

Leas kept the Bruins in the game by scoring nine of her game-high 14 points in the third quarter before senior Erin Cagle hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds to play that sent Blackford into the final eight minutes with a 22-20 lead.

The Bruins didn’t give up the lead and played with determined effort throughout the fourth quarter.

“A lot of games she gets face guarded so she’s kind of used to that,” said Blackford coach Mitch Waters of Leas. “She got hot there in the third quarter and really carried us to where we got to. Once we got up our will…carried us through to the finish line. I couldn’t be more proud of our girls.

“(Oak Hill) beat us by 60 points last year, a state championship team,” Waters noted of the 74-16 loss at Oak Hill last season. “I know they graduated a lot but they still had (three) seniors that started and (two juniors), so they’re a much more experienced team than we are. You can’t be more proud of your girls for that turnaround.”

Cagle scored the Bruins first bucket of the final quarter before two Westgate free throws kept the Eagles’ deficit at two. Carlee Biddle pulled Oak Hill within 24-23 by hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 3:41 to play but the Golden Eagles didn’t score again until Westgate’s basket with 14.2 seconds to play.

The Bruins scored eight-straight points in between, four by freshman Liv Waters, and essentially put the game on ice with two free throws by junior Grace Simmons with 1:05 to play that gave them a 32-23 lead.

“We didn’t execute well offensively at all. … you’re not going to win any high school varsity basketball games scoring 27 points,” Law said. “Just continuing to make unforced turnovers, especially the first half, we’d come up in the half court offense and just throw the ball out of bounds.”

Oak Hill finished the game with 20 turnovers and shot just 10-of-39 from the field, 1-of-11 from 3-point range.

Westgate led the Eagles with 12 points and eight rebounds. Biddle finished with six points, Kate Hornocker added five points and seven boards while Abby Shaw added two points and eight rebounds and Coleena Selleck also scored two.

Leas made just 3-of-12 from the field but hit two 3s and 6-of-8 free throws in her 14 point effort. Waters and Cagle finished with seven points apiece and the Bruins had three girls each score two.

“It’s unbelievable,” Waters exclaimed. “That’s our 10th win this season. Everybody on this team worked hard all off season and we have confidence in them. Coming into sectionals we believe that we’re a team to contend with and moving forward I don’t see why we couldn’t be.”

Blackford’s (10-6, 4-0 in CIC) turnaround it quite remarkable coming off a pair of one-win seasons and going 2-43 over the past two.

The Bruins still must navigate through games at Mississinewa (Jan. 17), as well as home games with Frankton (Jan. 24) and Eastbrook (Jan. 31) to assure themselves of winning the CIC outright.

Oak Hill (12-5, 4-1 in CIC) still has a chance to win its fourth-straight league title, but will need some help. The Eagles will next host its toughest opponent of the season, 4A No. 2 Northwestern on Wednesday. Oak Hill closes its CIC schedule hosting Eastbrook (Jan. 18) and at Alexandria (Jan. 25).

Frankton and Mississinewa only had one conference loss each entering Saturday.

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