Oak Hill headed over to Hartford City on Saturday afternoon with a chance to really put themselves in the drivers’ seat of the Central Indiana Conference.
But the upstart and much improved Blackford Bruins, led by star freshmen Olivia Leas and Liv Walters had other plans.
Behind a stalwart defensive effort, and some clutch shooting down the stretch, the Bruins came out on top, handing Oak Hill their first conference loss with a 34-27 triumph.
With the win, the Bruins remain the only undefeated team in the CIC, improving to 4-0.
“They came to play today,” Oak Hill Head Coach Todd Law said of the Bruins. “They played well. The longer you let a team stay in it, the more confidence they get. I felt like they were gaining the entire game, which allowed them to play relaxed. We got tighter as the game went on.”
The Golden Eagles’ offense struggled throughout the afternoon. Not only did Blackford do an excellent job of taking away the low post, but the Golden Eagles simply struggled to hit shots. They finished just 10-of-39 from the field, 1-of-11 from beyond the perimeter, and six-of-12 from the charity stripe.
“We didn’t execute well offensively,” Law said. “We shot 25 percent from the field, nine percent from the three-point line, and 50 percent from the line. You’re not going to win any high school varsity basketball games scoring 27 points.”
Along with their poor shooting numbers, Oak Hill had trouble hanging onto the ball, giving the ball away 20 times throughout the course of the contest.
Oak Hill opened the game with seven points in the first 3:18. Carlee Biddle knocked down the Golden Eagles’ lone three of the contest, before Taylor Westgate scored four straight points to give Oak Hill a five-point lead.
A triple from Waters made it 7-5 in favor of Oak Hill, but neither team scored the rest of the period.
The Golden Eagles’ offensive woes continued in the second quarter. After shooting just two-of-six in the first eight minutes, Oak Hill knocked down just three more field goals before halftime.
Giveaways played a big factor. In fact, Oak Hill’s turnovers matched the number of points they scored in the stanza – six.
“We are continuing to make unforced turnovers,” Law said. “We’d come up and the half-court offense would just throw the ball out of bounds and force it where it should have been.”
Furthermore, the Blackford defense continued to keep the Oak Hill offense under wraps. Westgate and Hornocker struggled to establish a presence underneath, as the Bruins did an excellent job of applying consistent pressure.
“They normally play a real aggressive 2-3,” Law said. “It’s a get-out-and-get-after-you [type of defense.] I think they just took that concept and dropped a girl onto Taylor all the time.”
Blackford opened the second quarter with five straight points, giving themselves a 10-7 lead, but the Golden Eagles held the Bruins scoreless over the final 6:42 of the first half, ending the quarter on a 6-0 run, which included a buzzer beating shot from Abby Shaw.
But the second half belonged to the Bruins, as they outscored the Golden Eagles by a margin of 24-14.
Oak Hill briefly held a five-point advantage in the third quarter after field goals from Biddle and Westgate, but that lead quickly evaporated. Behind nine points from Leas and a huge three-point shot from Erin Cagle, Blackford turned their five-point deficit into a two-point lead heading into the final frame.
Oak Hill would cut the Bruins’ advantage to one point, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the way. An 8-0 run for Blackford, which included some remarkable shots from Leas, Waters, and Jaycie Sones, helped to seal the deal.
While Blackford only shot 10-of-33 (30 percent) from the floor, their freshmen made an impact. Leas led all scorers with 14 points, while Waters collected seven. The duo also combine for nine rebounds, four blocks, and six steals.
“Those are two very good players,” Law said. “There is no doubt they are going to have a very good career here.”
Cagle added seven off the bench for Blackford.
Westgate finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Biddle collected six and Hornocker scored five.