The Lady Indians said goodbye to five seniors Saturday night in heartbreaking fashion, seeing Cloudland rally back from an early 8-point deficit to stake claim to a 50-46 victory. With the victory, Cloudland advances to the The Glasshouse to play Class A power Loretto — an arch nemesis of the Lady Indians — on Wednesday.
With The Reservation packed and crowd —especially the student section — rocking, Oneida came out with a step about them in building a 12-6 lead. That lead grew to eight in the second at 14-6 and stood at 14-8 when senior center Katelyn Stiltner had to exit with two fouls. That allowed the Lady Highlanders a chance on the glass and they capitalized as they would rally to within four points at the break, 22-18.
The third period was back and forth as Cloudland got hot from beyond the arc and Oneida rode the glasswork of Stiltner and a Gracie Martin triple to keep things interesting, as Cloudland led 34-32. Trailing 36-32 early in the fourth, Pike buried an and-one and Stiltner powered up a bucket to give the Lady Indians their final lead at 37-36. Coach West would try to get the foul-smitten Stiltner a moment of rest but before she could get back on the court, Cloudland had seized the momentum and taken a 41-37 lead. Oneida would pull as close as 46-44 behind a Pike triple and more Stiltner before falling, 50-46.
Coming into the season, little was expected of this overachieving group of seniors. All this group of five did was go 23-7 while going 22-0 in district and region play while reaching the substate for a third consecutive year. All told, this group would go 99-33 overall, missing out on the chance to win 100 due to losing five games earlier in December to COVID-19. Of their seven losses, four were to teams playing in the Class A state tournament while Class AA York came up one quarter short at powerhouse Meigs Co.
This year’s five seniors were Stiltner, Martin, Emily Wisner, Jacey Manis, and Caroline Bell. Each of these girls were instrumental to the program’s success, both on and off the court. If you read Facebook, you can see the difference these young ladies made in the lives of the remaining 12 Lady Indians whom hope to build on this groups leadership and success. On the court, despite Stiltner being the only player on the roster to have ever started a game, they gelled — it took a few games due to not having any summer work or pre-season scrimmages but as is Coach Marv West’s method the Lady Indians went 19-2 down the stretch. Stiltner would dominate the paint throughout the season — she kept ticking despite taking a beating each night — and Martin would show her true ability to play where needed and that she was 100% healthy coming off ACL surgery as a junior. This duo led the team — along with sophomore Kelsey Pike — in scoring nearly every night. Each team needs more than scoring to be successful so enter Manis, Wisner, and Bell. Manis specialized in the three ball and transition, Wisner was the glue and defensive ace and hustler that did a lot of the unnoticed dirty yeoman’s work, and Bell perfected her role as a sixth man of the year award candidate, coming off the bench to provide a defensive spark with a nice touch on her jumper. These five will be greatly missed.
It was the aforementioned trio of Stiltner, Martin, and Pike that kept Oneida in the game offensively as Stiltner and Martin ended their Lady Indian careers with double-doubles. Stiltner would score a game-high 17 points, including a dominating second half performance in which she scored 13 points. Stiltner would also pull down 10 boards, including seven on the offensive end. Martin would finish her career with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Pike would knock down two triples and an and-one on her way to 13 points and five boards.
The usual cast of five stepped up and played their roles nicely despite only combining to score five points. Manis would hit an early lay-up and dish out two assists while getting after it defensively. Wisner would knock down two charity tosses while scrambling all over the defensive end pulling down two boards, dishing out two assists, and recording one steal. Braelyn Russ would add a second period charity toss to bring the offensive total to 46 points. Caroline Bell gave Coach West some big-time minutes in the absence of Stiltner in the second period and left it on the court swatting a shot away on a fast break and dishing out an assist. Raylie Bush also played some big minutes and D’d it up, finishing with a steal.
After falling behind 4-2 early, the Lady Indians would rip off a 10-2 run the remainder of the way in the first to take a 12-6 lead into the second. Oneida’s early bucket came via a Martin deuce. Oneida would take a 6-4 lead behind a Stiltner bucket and Manis lay-up as she beat her defender to the bucket. Oneida would then get a triple from Pike to put them up 19-4. After a Cloudland bucket, Martin would close the scoring in the period with a charity toss and a step back to give the Lady Indians a 6-point advantage.
An early Stiltner bucket in the second put Oneida up 14-6 (their biggest lead of night) before she had to exit at the 4:38 or so mark, leading 14-8, due to foul trouble. The Lady Highlanders took advantage of her absence to pull to within two points at 20-18 before a Pike bucket extended the lead back to four points at intermission, 22-18. Sandwiched in between those two buckets were six charity tosses. Pike and Wisner would each knock down a pair while Martin and Russ would split a pair.
Oneida’s Martin buried a triple early in the third to put her team up 25-20. From there it was Stiltner time. Leading 25-22, Stiltner went to work knocking down a shot over her defender in the paint to give Oneida a 27-22 lead. After back-to-back Cloudland triples, it was Stiltner again going to work as she put back a miss to give Oneida a 29-28 lead. After a Stiltner charity toss put the Lady Indians up 30-28, Cloudland would go on another 6-0 run to take a 34-30 lead when Stiltner struck again, having a chance for a 3-point play but missed the back end of the and-one opportunity. This made it a 34-32 game heading to the fourth.
After an early Cloudland bucket to start the fourth, Pike and Stiltner got busy. Pike drove to the rack for an and-one and Stiltner just blasted up an offensive putback to give Oneida their final lead of the night at 37-36. Saddled with four fouls, Coach West tried to get Stiltner a break but five quick Cloudland points put them up 41-37 inside three minutes left to play. However, the Tribe had one final surge left in them as Stiltner remained the go-to by knocking down a pair of charity tosses and abusing a girl on the block to keep things interesting before Pike buried a HUGE trifecta from the top of the key to pull Oneida to with-in a deuce at 46-44 with 1:08 remaining to play. However, from there Cloudland would extend their lead from two to six at 50-44 behind charity tosses and two empty Oneida possessions. Martin would cap the night’s scoring with a lay-in at the buzzer to make the final score 50-46.
ONEIDA (46): Russ 1, Pike 13, Manis 2, Martin 11, Stiltner 17, and Wisner 2.
CLOUDLAND (50): Caraway 6, Mandy Benfield 4, Birchfield 7, Freeman 13, Fields 12, Ella Benfield 6, and McKinney 2.