CHATTANOOGA — Not only is Oneida playing in the Class A substate for the third time in four years, but the Lady Indians will be playing that substate game at home.
That is the fruit of Oneida’s Region 2-A championship — the Lady Indians’ second in four years — which they secured with a 51-32 win over Wartburg at CSAS in downtown Chattanooga on Wednesday.
Defeating the Lady Bulldogs for the third time in four tries this season, Oneida jumped to a 7-0 lead and never trailed, turning a tight first half into a relatively lopsided second half.
Chelsea Newport — who was battling illness and had made a visit to the emergency room earlier in the day — scored 17 points, while tournament MVP Kendyl West added 16 to pace the Lady Indians to the victory.
Along the way, Oneida overcame a lopsided foul count in the first half, and a pair of technical fouls in the second half, to hold off Wartburg’s surges.
Leading by six after the first quarter and at halftime, Oneida held the Lady Bulldogs to just 13 points in the third and fourth quarters combined. Wartburg shot just 9 of 36 — 25 percent — and was 4 of 20 from 3-point range.
“I’ll say this, and (Wartburg coach) Jason Davis said it after the game: We beat them to almost every loose ball on the floor,” Oneida coach Marv West said. “We were all over the place. I’m very proud of that because that was a big thing for us. We don’t always do that. But tonight we were on a mission. We held them to 13 points in the second half and I’ll bet they haven’t scored that low all year.”
In fact, Wartburg — which enters Saturday’s substate game at North Greene with a 26-5 record and has lost only two games to anyone other than Oneida — had previously scored a low of 40 points in a game, against Pickett County in the season opener and also in a December game at Oneida.
It was West who set the tone early. Wartburg opened in a 1-3-1 defense to limit the effectiveness of Katelyn Stiltner inside, after Stiltner scored 21 in the Lady Indians’ District 3-A championship game win over the Lady Bulldogs. West took advantage of the open space on the perimeter to hit two 3-point shots, as Oneida opened a 7-0 lead. But then she was forced to sit the remainder of the first half after picking up two fouls. The foul count was 8 to 2, with Oneida on the losing end, until Wartburg was whistled for a third foul in the final minute of the second quarter.
West returned to score 10 points in the second half. In her absence, Newport came up big. She had three first half 3-pointers and 11 points, and finished with a game-high 17.
Newport had been rushed to the ER by Oneida assistant coaches Sandy Martin and Heaven Smithers earlier in the day, after a feared appendicitis attack during the Lady Indians’ shoot-around at Cleveland State Community College. One year ago, Kendyl West underwent an emergency appendectomy during the district tournament, and her father said he wasn’t taking any chances this time around.
“This is just a game,” he said. “(But) all the tests were negative. She comes out tonight and, golly, how good did she play? I told her we’re taking her to the ER Saturday.”
West has previously praised his team for finding someone different to step up every single game, and he reiterated that after Wednesday’s win.
“We don’t know whose night it’s gonna be all the time, whether it’s Kendyl or Katelyn or Chelsea or Harley or whoever,” he said. “But whoever’s night it is, that’s who I’m playing. We’re going to ride that horse as far as we can. That’s the benefit of being deep.”
Riding Newport’s big first half, the Lady Indians built as much as a 10-point lead in the second quarter. But Wartburg raced back, cutting it to 22-19 late in the second quarter.
That was when frustration began to mount over the lopsided foul count on the Oneida side. It came to a head early in the third quarter, when West was slapped on the arm on a shot attempt. No foul was called, and her father was assessed a technical foul for questioning the lack of a whistle.
“I must’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time and they stuck me,” he said after the game. “That’s the first time in several years I’ve had a technical, but I’ll be happy to get one if we’re gonna play like that.”
Just minutes later, Stiltner was assessed a technical after she tossed the ball to an official who was apparently not ready to catch it after she scrambled for an offensive rebound and a jump ball was called. West called a time out and asked for an explanation but didn’t receive one. Suddenly, after not being assessed a technical foul all season, the Lady Indians had two in just minutes.
After the game, West again questioned the technical he was assessed.
“What I said, I got right next to him and I said something to him about are you gonna give us a call tonight,” he said. “It was pretty low-key.”
After the whistle, West held conference with another member of the officiating crew to protest the call.
“I said, I haven’t said a word to you all night and you’re gonna stick me? It’s hard for us to respect you all if that’s how you’re going to act.”
But the calls paid off. Oneida got more whistles the rest of the way, and Wartburg was actually called for more second half fouls than the Lady Indians. For the game, Oneida was 8 of 16 from the free throw line, while Wartburg was 10 of 19.
With the whistles evened out, Oneida set about the process of building its lead. It was nine points after the third quarter, and reached double-digits, 41-30, early in the fourth quarter.
A combination of Oneida’s defense and cold shooting limited Wartburg to one field goal in the fourth quarter, and just three for the entire second half.
Following the game, West was named Region 2-A tournament MVP. Joining her on the all-tournament team from Oneida were Chloe Terry, Jayden Thomas and Katelyn Stiltner. Named to the all-tournament team from Wartburg were Madison Williams, Madison Holley and Callie Johnson.
Oneida will host Cloudland in a substate game on Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the state tournament. The two teams last met in 2005. That was also a substate game, which Oneida won to advance to Murfreesboro. This year’s Cloudland team is 25-6, with three of their losses coming to North Greene, Wartburg’s opponent on Saturday. One of the remaining three losses came to York Institute, 45-32. Oneida split a pair of games with the Dragons this season.
West knows his team has its work cut out for it on Saturday, and hopes for a big crowd to cheer on his squad.
“I’m so glad we’re playing at home,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get a win and get to go back to the ‘Boro. This is three times in four years (in the substate). It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that.”
ONEIDA (51): Newport 17, West 16, Pike 5, Stiltner 4, Terry 4, Boyatt 3, Thomas 2.
WARTBURG (32): Williams 13, Holley 7, Keathley 3, Potter 3, Johnson 2, Davis 2, Byrge 2.