OAK HARBOR – It had been a long 48 hours for the Oak Harbor girls basketball team.
The intervening time from the Rockets’ upset loss to Genoa on Tuesday to the tip-off of their Sandusky Bay Conference opener against Edison could not pass fast enough. Oak Harbor was eager to get back on the floor and erase the memory of its loss to the Comets and get itself back on track.
Basketball: Edison at Oak Harbor, Thursday, Dec 4, 2014.
Though the Rockets found themselves in slugfest with the larger and physical Chargers, Oak Harbor pulled out a thrilling 54-52 win Thursday.
“We had a very, very difficult night Tuesday,” Oak Harbor coach Tom Kontak said. “To come back with the emotion and this toughness, that’s all character.”
The win lifts the Rockets to 2-1 overall and gets them off on the right foot in the SBC, 1-0.
“I couldn’t wait to get back at it tonight,” junior Andrea Cecil said. “Coach tells us, ‘Everybody remembers the last thing we did.’ We didn’t want the last thing to be remembered to be us losing. We wanted to get back on a high note.”
Over the final 12:26 of the game, Oak Harbor and Edison exchanged the lead 12 times. Edison held a 52-51 lead with 1:22 to play, but Oak Harbor’s Maddy Rathbun found Emma Barney who drained her third 3-pointer of the night to give her team the final lead-change of the night with just over a minute to play. The Rockets missed four free throws in the final minute, allowing Edison a chance to tie the game on its final possession.
With 7.2 seconds to play, Edison’s Brianna Pittenger’s jump shot refused to fall and Cecil grabbed the defensive rebound to seal the game for the Rockets.
“We went over every aspect that could have bene improved in (Wednesday’s) practice and they just gritted it out,” Kontak said. “Somehow we were able to finish it off at the end.”
Cecil led Oak Harbor with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Barney added 13 points with six boards, five assists and four steals. Rathbun added eight points and, at just 5-foot-8, battled Edison’s trio of 6-footers in the post to grab nine rebounds.
The Rockets looked as though they might blow out the Chargers early. Oak Harbor closed the first quarter on a 12-point run and took a 17-4 lead into the second period. Edison (2-1, 0-1), however, charged out of the gate in the second, going on a 7-0 run, and trimmed the deficit to just four by halftime. The Chargers then opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run, taking the lead, and setting up the back-and-forth second half.
Coming back from behind, however, was nothing new for Edison.
“Our first game we started out (trailing) 9-0, we had to crawl our way back into that one, our second game we were down by 10 at one point and clawed our way back,” Edison coach Tracey Moyer said. “They just come back hard. I guess they just need a little time to figure it out.”
The Rockets’ benefitted from nice performances by a pair of youngsters. Starting junior Athena Eli suffering a finger injury in Tuesday’s loss to Genoa and expected to miss at least two months. Allie Kuhn was inserted into the starting lineup in Eli’s place and freshman Ashley Riley made her varsity debut. Kuhn scored four points while Riley added six points on a pair of 3-pointers.
“It was a little different (without Eli), but Ashley’s been doing great at practice, she came to practice with us yesterday, moved up to varsity with us, and she was in the right place and she knew what she was doing,” Cecil said. “Ashley Riley stepped up huge for us and did unbelievable.”