CHATTANOOGA — The irony of fate did not go unnoticed Tuesday on The River as the calls and balls didn’t go and bounce the way of the Indians. Did the three Indian seniors deserve better after last year’s cancellation of the state tournament? Absolutely … but sometimes life is unfair.
Oneida would travel down Hwy. 27 to Chattanooga on Tuesday night to battle CSAS in a rematch of the 2019-20 region semifinals, a game that was won by Oneida 43-36 on their way to The ‘Boro. Despite CSAS shooting the ball uncharacteristically well for 2.5 periods and the Indians turning the ball over at a high rate early, Oneida still had a fighter’s chance in the fourth as the Indians had battled back from 10 down at 41-31 to cut their deficit to three points heading into the fourth, 47-44. Oneida would draw as close as one point on several occasions but could never get even or take the lead as free throws went awry and the whistles (or lack thereof) continuously went against Oneida in the game’s waning stages, allowing CSAS to escape with the 56-55 victory.
The Indians will say goodbye to three seniors, all whom have contributed to the success of the program over the past three seasons. Playing in their final contest in an orange and white uniform were the trio of Nathan Bowling, Kolby Morgan and Reece Marcum. Bowling and Morgan were scorers while the unheralded Marcum will go down as doing the bulk of the grunt work on the defensive end, especially down the stretch this season.
On the night it was Bowling and Morgan who did the bulk of the scoring and giving of opportunities to give the Indians a shot at victory. Bowling would finish his career with a double-double as he knocked home 15 points, hauled in 10 boards, and dished out three assists. Morgan had a big fourth period in helping the Indians to hang around, finishing with 14 points, three boards and two steals. The other senior Marcum did not score but came up big defensively in helping the Indians rally in the second period from down seven points.
Also contributing to the cause were Jacob Perry, Jeric Huling, Rylin Duncan, Mason Keeton, and Jeb Spradlin. Huling put together a nice night on both ends of the court as he worked the driving lanes for 12 points, recorded four steals, blocked two shots, and dished out two assists. Perry would finish the night with eight points and a team-high four assists. Keeton would bury a huge triple in the second as he finished with three points and three boards. Duncan would contribute three points, four boards and two assists. Although he didn’t score, Spradlin pulled a board and gave his team some valuable minutes on the defensive end.
Bowling and Morgan were on early as the teams battled back-and-forth, the lead exchanging hands on multiple occasions before CSAS settled on a two-point advantage after one, 18-16. In the frame, both Bowling and Morgan would score five points as Bowling drilled a trifecta and jumper while Morgan buried a trifecta and knocked down a pair from the stripe. The Indians would also get buckets from Perry, Huling and Duncan during the frame.
CSAS would jump out to a 7-point lead at 31-24 before the Indians closed the half with a flurry to pull to within four points at the break, 33-29. It could have been closer if not for an ill-advised Oneida shot that turned into a buzzer beating fast-break for the Patriots. It was the duo of Bowling and Perry keeping the Indians close as Perry knocked down a couple shots while Bowling finished at the rack and knocked down a pair of charity tosses. Trailing 31-24, Keeton buried a huge triple and Huling made his way the hole for an easy lay in.
An early Perry bucket in the third was the only points Oneida could muster up early in the frame, allowing CSAS to get out to a 41-31 lead. The remainder of the period belonged to Oneida, as the Indians went on a 13-1 run to pull to within one point at 45-44 before the Patriots ended the frame with a bucket to take a 47-44 lead into the fourth. In the frame, it was the trio of Bowling, Morgan, and Huling rallying the Tribe offensively as Morgan got the rally started with an and-one. From there, Bowling and Huling would continuously drive to the rack, allowing Bowling to score six points on two buckets and two charity tosses while Huling finished the frame with four points.
The fourth was interesting as the Indians kept the game tight, even appearing to take the lead on a couple of occasions, only have a bad whistle blown. In the frame, Oneida had chances trailing 52-51, 54-53, and 56-55 to either tie at the stripe or take the lead with a bucket. All those shots went awry or were overturned on bad calls. Duncan was only able to muster up 1 of 2 with an opportunity to tie the game, Huling missed a pair to tie things up, Morgan was ruled to have pushed off on an offensive board that he was laying back up and in, Bowling was called for a horrendous charge where the defender dangerously undercut him that the Indian faithful had already started to cheer with the possibility of an and-one and the lead, Huling was robbed of a chance to put the Indians ahead as he was called for a charge when two defenders collided, and then the no call as Morgan attempted the game-winner at the buzzer — all calls made by the same official.
In the frame, helping Oneida score and stay within striking distance was Morgan, Huling, and Duncan. Duncan finished with the aforementioned charity toss, Huling made his way to the rack, using his athletic ability to finish two tough drives for four points, and Morgan would finish the frame with six points, including an and-one.
ONEIDA (55): Bowling 15, Perry 8, Morgan 14, Huling 12, Duncan 3, and Keeton 3.
CSAS (56): Ethan Brown 18, Cameron 2, Gradzinski 4, Justin Brown 17, Pride 3, Wright 8, and Bell 4.