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By GOOSE LINDSAY
The Oliver Springs Lady Bobcats entered Friday’s TSSAA Class A semifinal contest against Clarkrange with a dream of knocking off the unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Lady Buffaloes on their way to the TSSAA State Championship.
That dream, however, turned into a nightmare as the Lady Buffaloes dominated play and improved to 38-0 on the season with a 53-26 victory over the Lady ‘Cats.
“We’ve been great since middle school,” a teary-eyed Mariah Ollis said after the game. “We’ve been to the state tournament all four years and you want to win it all your senior season. But to get embarrassed like this is not how picture it. We just didn’t come out and do what we needed to do.”
“They did everything right. We did everything wrong and we got embarrassed,” teammate Kayla Christopher added. “They’re a great team.”
Lady ‘Cat head coach Michelle Christopher knew her team would have to play their very best to have any chance at beating the Lady Buffaloes and that didn’t happen. Oliver Springs (25-9) hit just 25.6 percent (10-39) of their field goal attempts and they had 12 turnovers compared to just four for Clarkrange.
“Going into the game today we felt like we could play with them and we can, but they played extremely well today and we didn’t do anything right,” Christopher said. “We shot 25 percent and you can’t win basketball games like that.”
Oliver Springs did take an early 2-0 lead when Chelsea Harper buried a jumper with 6:51 left in the first quarter, but the Lady ‘Cats did not hit another shot from the floor in the period and two free throws from Christopher would leave Oliver Springs with just four points at the end of the period.
Luckily for Oliver Springs, Clarkrange also struggled from the floor in the opening period as Lamar Rogers’ squad hit just three of 13 from the floor and led just 10-4 after eight minutes of play.
The Lady ‘Cats used a pair of baskets from Ollis early in the second period to pull within four points at 12-8 with 5:27 left in the quarter, but things quickly turned ugly for the fans of the purple and gold.
Clarkrange answered with an 11-0 run and would take a 25-11 lead into the locker room at halftime as a three-pointer from Kelsey Hall with 15 seconds left in the half accounted for Oliver Springs last points of the period.
The third quarter was even worse for the Lady ‘Cats as Clarkrange opened the period by hitting five straight shots, three of them being from beyond the three-point arc. The Lady Buffaloes also hit a pair of free throws during that stretch as the 15-0 run gave Clarkrange an amazing 40-11 lead with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
The rest of the game was pretty uneventful for both teams as Clarkrange used the 28-3 run to cruise to the 27-point victory.
Tasha Phillips led Clarkrange on the day with 15 points and seven rebounds while Molly Heady added 12 points.
Ollis led Oliver Springs with eight points and nine rebounds.
Despite the poor finish, the Lady ‘Cats senior class will be have a lot of positives to look back upon. The Class of 2009 won four District 4-A Championships, three Region 2-A Championships, and they made four TSSAA State Tournament appearances with a runner-up finish in 2007.
“The sun will come up in the morning,” coach Christopher said. “It hurts now, but they’ll realize in a few weeks just how great it was. These kids had a work ethic and the desire to win, but what makes them truly great is how close they are. They’re all best friends. I’m very proud of these kids. We’ve been on a great ride these past four years.”
Oliver Springs (26) Kayla Christopher 4, Harper 4, Ollis 8, Hall 5, Kelsey Christopher 1, Carter 2, Fitch 2.