MURFREESBORO — Oneida’s Lady Indians knew when they walked off the court at the Murphy center here Thursday evening that they had played their last game of the season.
As it turned out, it was likely the next-to-last game of the entire Tennessee high school basketball season.
Less than two hours after the Lady Indians’ 58-33 loss to Loretto in the Class A state quarterfinals, TSSAA announced that it was suspending the remainder of the girls’ state tournament, as well as the boys’ state tournament.
The girls’ semifinals were to have been played on Friday, with Loretto squaring off against Gibson County in a rematch of last year’s championship game. Gibson County defeated Pickett County in the final game of the day on Thursday evening, and TSSAA’s announcement was made shortly thereafter. While TSSAA did not rule out resuming the tournament at a later date — saying that possibility would depend on timing and facility availability — most who opined on the situation seemed to think it was unlikely that the tournaments would be finished.
The quarterfinal game did not go well for the Lady Indians, who fell to Loretto for a second consecutive season at MTSU.
The Mustangs’ defense presented a lot of problems for Oneida, forcing the Lady Indians to settle for 3-point shots — and long ones at that. For the game, Oneida shot just 33 percent from the field, including 12 percent from 3-point range, where the Lady Indians were 2 of 17.
Playing in an arena setting for the first time this season, Oneida’s shooting was bad all the way around. The Lady Indians were an uncharacteristic 46 percent from the free throw line, hitting 5 of 11 attempts.
It wasn’t just Loretto’s defense that caused Oneida problems. The same length that kept the Lady Indians’ offense off-balance also contributed to a mismatch on the boards. The Lady Mustangs out-rebounded Oneida 36-18 and had 10 offensive rebounds.
Oneida had its moments, though. The Lady Indians flustered Loretto’s offense at times, and forced eight turnovers while recording seven steals. Still, Loretto made shots when it mattered most. The Lady Mustangs shot 50 percent from the field, including 43 percent from 3-point range. They were 56 percent from the free throw line, hitting 10 of 18 attempts.
Sophomore Miss Basketball finalist Karly Weathers finished with 16 points, while Victoria Chadwell had 11 points.
Oneida was led by senior Jayden Thomas, who had nine. Freshman Kelsey Pike had seven, all in the first half.
The Lady Indians got Loretto into foul trouble in the first half. The Lady Mustangs were whistled for seven fouls in the first quarter. Oneida cut the lead to 23-17 at one point, but then Loretto went on a 12-0 run to build an 18-point lead before Pike scored on a shot from just inside the 3-point line to end the streak late in the first half.
The game was the last for five Oneida seniors. In addition to Thomas, Lady Indians who wrapped up their Oneida careers on the Murphy Center floor included Kendyl West, Chelsea Newport, Harley Boyatt and Chloe Terry.
Together, the five won 99 games, three regular season district championships, two region tournament championships, a district tournament championship, qualified for the substate three out of four years and made two state tournament appearances. Their qualifications made the senior class the most successful at Oneida in more than 20 years.
ONEIDA (33): Thomas 9, Pike 7, Boyatt 5, Martin 4, Newport 3, West 3, Stiltner 2.
LORETTO (58): Ka. Weathers 16, Chadwell 11, Ke. Weathers 7, Chance 7, McBee 6, Welch 5, Buttram 4, Fisher 2.