In their final game of the 2019-2020 season, the Oak Hill Golden Eagles put together one of their best performances of the year.
They shot 42 percent from the floor (14-of-33), including a stellar six-of-13 from beyond the arc. They were predictably stout on the defensive end of the floor.
And for 32 minutes, they fought tirelessly against one of the toughest teams they’ve faced all year, battling to the very end in a 44-37 loss to the Bellmont Squaws on Saturday evening in the second Sectional 23 semifinal.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids tonight,” Oak Hill Head Coach Todd Law said. “As a coach, your goal is to always have your kids playing their best at the end, and by far, this was one of our best games. We played well tonight – we just got beat by a team that played better than us tonight.”
The difference in the contest came down to turnovers. While the Golden Eagles only gave the ball up 13 times, the Squaws scored 11 points of those giveaways. Conversely, Oak Hill forced seven turnovers, but did not score any points in transition.
“We won most every statistical category,” Law said. “But that was the game. It was a tough pill to swallow, because we played well.”
In their final game as Lady Golden Eagles, Taylor Westgate, Abby Shaw, and Coleena Selleck were outstanding. Despite a consistent triple-team, Westgate finished with 12 points on five-of-10 shooting, including a three-pointer, to go along with nine rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Shaw played one of the best games of her career, scoring 12 points on four-of-seven shooting from the perimeter. And Selleck, though she was held off the scoresheet, made her presence felt on the defensive end while running the Oak Hill offense to perfection.
“These girls from Bellmont are big, strong, athletic girls, and that made it tougher on her, but Taylor played extremely well,” Law said. “Abby had her best game of the year. Coleena had her best game of the year. And for seniors to go out like that, I’m just really happy about that.”
Oak Hill got off to a fast start in the first quarter, shooting five-of-eight from the floor, including two makes from three-point range, to build a 12-7 advantage. Carlee Biddle opened Oak Hill’s scoring with a triple, and a Westgate field goal a short time later put them up 5-2. Bellmont got two points back on a pair of free throws, but a 7-3 run to end the frame gave the Golden Eagles a five-point advantage. Shaw started the rally with a three, while Westgate and Kate Hornocker each followed with a bucket in the paint.
An 11-2 run for the Squaws to start the second quarter gave them control of the contest – and a lead they would relinquish. After Westgate scored four points in the first quarter, she was held to just two shot attempts in the second as the Squaws made it difficult for her to get touches underneath the basket.
“They were a really big and tough team,” Westgate said. “They were really aggressive. It was really hard to get around. They did a really good job with that.”
Trailing 18-14, Westgate’s lone field goal of the stanza cut the Bellmont lead to just one possession, and at halftime, Oak Hill trailed 21-18 after Hornocker scored in the waning seconds.
In the third, the Golden Eagles, on numerous occasions, looked to grab the momentum, but despite some tremendous defense, their offense failed to score the timely baskets that were needed.
“Early, we had four stops in a row, but…we just could not get anything to go,” Law said. “We couldn’t get an executed play, and we couldn’t get a shot to go.”
Oak Hill cut the Squaws’ advantage down to two points on two separate occasions in the latter stages of the stanza, but Bellmont always had an answer, heading into the fourth quarter on a 6-0 surge.
The Golden Eagles made their final push early in the fourth quarter. A Shaw three, her third, trimmed the advantage to five, and a few possessions later, she took another three from the corner and found twine.
But the basket ultimately did not count, as she was called for a travel.
Moments later, Bellmont’s Morgan Shifferly scored on a jumper a few feet away from the basket, essentially putting an end to Oak Hill’s rally.
“That hurt. That’s all I’ll say – that hurt,” Law said. “That would have brought us back to within two.”
Bellmont eventually built their lead to game-high 10 in the final 1:52, and the Golden Eagles never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
But despite their season-ending loss on Saturday, the Golden Eagles exceeded all expectations, and when considering the source of their success this year, it comes down to their group of remarkable seniors.
“Honestly, all glory to God,” Westgate said. “I didn’t think we would even do that well this year. We’ve done awesome. We worked really hard, and we showed everyone we could do it. I’m really proud of us.”
They’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in their four-year high school careers, but through it all, they exemplified what it meant to be a Lady Golden Eagle.
Not just on the court, but off the court as well.
“They’ve won four CIC conference championships. They’ve won three Grant Fours, three sectionals, two regionals, two semi-states, and a state championship,” Law said. “I don’t know what else you could do, really.”
One year removed from their first state championship in school history, many did not give Oak Hill much of a chance.
And all they did was win 16 games, clinch their fourth straight conference championship, finish as the 17th best defense in the state of Indiana, and win a sectional game.
Not bad for a team many picked to finish below .500.
“I feel really good about our season,” Law said. “After the way we played this week, we can hold our head high. There were a lot of people that doubted this team [and] who thought we weren’t really going to be good at all, [but] our seniors came up with a team motto this year of ‘one team and one mission.’ That was for us to come together as a team and to be successful and prove everybody wrong.
“We played our best at the end. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”