Down nine points in the second half, things weren’t looking so good for Oak Harbor.
But behind a spirited effort from its seniors and a great performance from freshman Andrea Cecil, the Rockets rallied and defeated Perkins in thrilling fashion, 39-38, in the Division II Sectional Semifinals Wednesday night at Sandusky High School.
Trailing, 29-20, midway thru the third quarter, Oak Harbor (16-7) responded by going on a 15-0 run to take control of the contest before holding off a late Pirate (15-8) rally to claim victory.
“We knew that if we didn’t (start scoring), we had no chance,” Cecil said of the Rockets’ spurt. “After halftime, we started playing (better) because we knew that if we didn’t, the season would be over and we didn’t want to send our seniors out like that.”
Cecil got the run started with a basket to cut the deficit to seven and back-to-back steals by Maria Boers help set up easy baskets for Makayla Carpenter and Cecil, respectively, to make it 29-26. Boers later tied it up with a three-pointer from the left wing with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter, helping to swing momentum in Oak Harbor’s favor.
With the score knotted at 29, Cecil gave the Rockets a two-point lead with a short jumper, giving them their first lead since it was 2-0. She scored the game’s next four points to push the lead to 35-29 before Perkins mounted all rally that fell just short. In all, she finished with 10 of the Rockets’ 15 points during the spurt.
The Pirates cut the deficit to 36-34 with under a minute to play but Carpenter responded by driving to the hoop and finding Gezo inside for a basket that put the Rockets up four.
Cecil led the Rockets with 17 points, Abbie Gezo finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Boers chipped in with seven.
Perkins center Shannon Ebert led all scorers with 19 points, Kayla Yost had nine and Darcy Daniel chipped in with seven. The Pirates played without one of their key players, Abbey Seeholzer.
“My thinking was, ‘We better start scoring some baskets and start catching up pretty quick,’” Oak Harbor head coach Tom Kontak said of his mindset before the team went on their run. “We did have a timeout, but we knew there was a lot of game left (to be played). Even though the offense can be off, the defense was on. The girls carried out their assignments beautifully and they communicated. That’s the beauty of basketball.
“It’s communication under pressure — that’s what I’m most happy with. The girls trusted each other enough to switch and talk to each other when the pressure was highest. I couldn’t be more happy for those four seniors. They get a chance to play in the sectional final. ”
In the first half, however, the Pirates controlled the tempo and led, 14-8, after one quarter and 23-16 at halftime.
“We knew we had to come out with intensity (in the second half) because they’re only up by seven,” said Gezo, who had to work hard to keep Ebert in check. “We said, ‘We need to show some heart and (that) we wanted this.’ And we came out with the win. Ebert is a great player and she made me work hard tonight.
It was also the first win in nine tries for the senior quartet of Gezo, Boers, Carpenter and Erin Bryant.
“It just felt good for us seniors because we hadn’t beaten Perkins in all of our four years,” Gezo said. “This was our senior goal.”
It was the third meeting between the teams this season, and, like the previous two, came right down to the wire. The Pirates won the first meeting, 46-44, in overtime before defeating the Rockets, 51-44, on Feb. 2. Since that loss, however, the Rockets have reeled off a string of six straight wins and built some momentum heading into the postseason.
“There were turnovers and no offensive flow (in the second half),” Perkins head coach Ray Neill said. “We got a little tentative, and with the tentativeness and indecision came turnovers. We were up nine midway thru the third quarter and the momentum changed in about three possessions. We never got our confidence back, but we hung in there. I take as much blame as anybody for that. We lost all offensive flow. We tip our caps to Oak Harbor.”
Neill was appreciative of the effort of his three seniors, Ebert, Daniel and Yost.
“I want to say goodbye to three seniors that have been pretty prominent for us in their four years in Shannon Ebert, Darcy Daniel and Kayla Yost.”