LANCASTER - The game was tough and physical, and, perhaps, just the way that Sugarcreek Garaway would have wanted it.
With a Division III Regional Championship at stake, the Lady Pirates used the physical style to their advantage against Oak Hill on Saturday at Lancaster High School. Scoring early, often and plenty from the foul line, Garaway ensured a trip to the state tournament next week with a 62-39 victory over the Lady Oaks.
"Garaway did a good job," said Oak Hill coach Doug Hale. "We buried ourselves in the first quarter. In the second quarter, we came out and outscored them, but after being down many after the first quarter, it was hard to get back into the game."
The Lady Pirates set the tone from the start, as Erica Hershberger drained back-to-back 3s to give the team a 6-0 lead. Miquel Strite answered with a 3 of her own, but the Lady Oaks could not pull closer than three points. In fact, after Oak Hill pulled to within 8-5, Garaway would go on a 15-3 run to close the quarter.
The Lady Oaks would pull to within seven twice in the second quarter, but could get no closer. The Lady Pirates outscored Oak Hill 32-19 in the second half, punching their ticket to Columbus and the Value City Arena.
"In the second half, they took control of the whole game," said Hale. "I just felt like they did a great job of controlling the game. Every time we tried to get back in the game with one our presses or a trap, we either didn't make the play or we got a foul called on us. We just couldn't get any rhythm offensively or defensively."
The Lady Pirates had plenty opportunities at the foul line on Saturday. The team shot 24 of 35 from the line - 11 of 20 in the fourth quarter and 13 of 15 in the first three. By contrast Oak Hill made nine of its 12 foul shots.
Karissa Adkins led the way for the Lady Oaks, scoring a team-high 12 points. Senior Kaylin Marshall would add 11 points and four rebound, and Strite would score eight and have four rebounds of her.
The loss ends Oak Hill's season at 18-7, but along the way, picked up another sectional and district championship, along with an appearance in its 12th straight district final. The Lady Oaks lose Marshall, Karla Moore and Brittany Gilliland to graduation, but Hale knows that Saturday's experience, and that of his senior trio, could give Oak Hill the foundation for another trip to Lancaster.
"I want to tip my hat to them (the Lady Pirates) and say how proud I am of our girls," said Hale. "We just ran out of gas, got in foul trouble, and our depth and youth showed in that second half as well. We are real proud to be in the regional. I told the seniors what a good job they have done from start to finish, and we are real proud of them.
"I told the underclassmen, 'If you want to get back, you know what it feels like, so we will start working in the offseason and get up here next season,'" Hale added.
For Garaway, Laura Bardall had a game-high 15 points and added seven rebounds and two steals. Hershberger had 12, and Kenzie Kaufman added 10, with each getting two steals. Kristen Troyer had two steals of her own.
"I thought we played pretty well," said coach Scott Bardall. "We were scared to death of Oak Hill. We watched them play a week ago against Alexander, and I thought that was the most physical girls game I have ever seen