Oakland City University basketball women were literally driven out of postseason play Friday afternoon.
"Hiwassee drove to the basket a lot. Probably 60 of their points came in the paint. Every time their two big girls got the ball, they pushed and hit layups," Lady Oaks Coach Shayne Ross said after the 73-59 loss to National Christian College Athletic Association Mideast Regional host Hiwassee in Madisonville, Tenn.
Beaten in a regional opener a second straight year, the Lady Oaks closed with an 11-13 record despite winning their last five regular-season games and seven of their last eight. Hiwassee, seeded second in the three-team regional, advanced to Saturday afternoon's final vs. top-seeded Bluefield (Va.) College, that winner advancing to the March 14-17 NCCAA Championships at Grace College in upstate Winona Lake.
Friday's game statistics were not available Saturday afternoon. Only the final score was posted on an NCCAA web page.
The Hiwassee women's basketball schedule page reports the Lady Tigers' record as 16-8, but lists no results of their regular season's final three games.
Ross said the Lady Oaks "led by about 10 the first quarter. We were down two at halftime, two or three after the third quarter. It was a back-and-forth game the fourth quarter between the four-and-six-minute marks. Then Hiwassee went on a little run."
"For most of the game the officiating was pretty even. But in the fourth quarter it stopped being even. I don't think they were even NAIA officials; I think they were high school officials."
Ross said 5-foot-10 senior Ny'Asia Holmes and 6-0 freshman Shoninique Pearson drove consistently, and "J'Lynn Majors (5-5 junior) also hurt us with her driving."
Her coach said 5-7 junior Olivia Carroll, who will graduate in May, marry Mighty Oaks center Addison Wagler in August and bypass a senior season of basketball, was Oakland City's best Friday player. "Olivia played under control, she rebounded, and we even had her on the point a couple times," Ross said.
"Emily Pitkin (6-2 senior center) played a nice game. Alicia Wilson (5-5 senior guard) played pretty well. But we turned the ball over too much, probably close to 20 turnovers. The officials let Hiwassee play more physical on-the-ball defense than we're used to."
Ross said the Lady Oaks, in rising from a 4-11 record to meet their university's .400 percentage requirement for postseason play, "overcame a lot of adversity including injuries. Ten of our losses came by 10 points or fewer. Our girls showed a lot of resilience in battling back from 4-and-11 and not being satisfied to win just a couple more games."
Friday marked the career finale for Wilson, Pitkin and Carroll. "Alicia finished as one of the top free throw shooters in our school's history, maybe in the top five. She might be among the program's top five three-point percentage shooters," Ross said. "Emily is second in shot-blocks for a career and may have set a season record. And the way Olivia played after coming back from an early-season injury, I'd like to see her back for a fourth year."