HARRIMAN — It was close for a half. And then Oneida’s defense kicked it up a notch.
Playing without junior Kendyl West, the Lady Indians looked nonetheless postseason-primed in Friday’s District 3-A semifinal at Roane State Community College here, defeating Oliver Springs, 56-35, to advance to Tuesday’s district championship game.
Katelyn Stiltner was hard for the Bobcats to handle on the post. The sophomore scored a game-high 16 points and was four of five from the free throw line.
But the biggest story of Friday’s game was Oneida’s defense.
After jumping to a quick 7-0 lead, the Lady Indians saw Oliver Springs race back to tie the game. And while the Bobcats never led, it was just a 25-23 game at the half. Then, the defense.
Oneida brought noticeably more energy to the floor as the second half began, brimming with confidence while Oliver Springs appeared to be uncertain of itself against the Lady Indians’ pressure.
As has been the case in almost every game this season, the Lady Indians’ opponent finished with more than 20 turnovers. The Bobcats wound up with 25 turnovers.
Oneida shot 48 percent from the field, getting the win despite only hitting 9 of 17 free throw attempts.
After being up 25-23 at the half, Oneida went on a 19-8 run in the third quarter to build a 13-point lead as the fourth quarter began. Oliver Springs scored just four points in the fourth quarter and had only 12 in the second half.
Cassidy Gilmore and Desirae Davis each scored 10 points for the Bobcats.
The Lady Indians are playing without one of their top players in West, who emerged as one of District 3-A’s top shooters this season. She had an appendectomy on Wednesday and will be unable to return to the lineup until the Region 2-A championship game, should Oneida advance that far.
In West’s absence, several players stepped up. Senior Shay Buttram, who was a starter as a junior but has been recovering from a knee injury, stepped into the starting lineup and went 3 of 3 from 3-point range, finishing with nine points. Junior Chelsea Newport came off the bench to also score nine points. Sophomore Gracie Martin had seven points and seven rebounds off the bench, and was 3 of 3 from the free throw line. Senior Logan Lamb had six points off the bench.
The Lady Indians will face Midway in the District 3-A championship game Tuesday. The third-seeded Green Wave upset No. 2 Sunbright on Friday, 62-47.
ONEIDA (56): Stiltner 16, Buttram 9, Newport 9, Martin 7, Lamb 6, Thomas 5, Boyatt 3, Terry 1.
OLIVER SPRINGS (35): Gilmore 10, Davis 10, Hester 5, Johnson 4, Chaston 4, Yates 2.