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GOSHEN – Five times the last five years Oldham County’s girls have taken on South Oldham with a district title on the line. All five times the Lady Colonels found themselves on the losing end.
That history made it so much sweeter Friday night when OC players dog-piled senior Ashley McMurtrey at half court as the final horn sounded.
The Lady Colonels halted the Lady Dragons’ district domination with a 50-43 win Friday at North Oldham in the District 29 finals. The win marked OC’s first district tournament title since beating South in 2008.
For McMurtrey, who was named tournament MVP, the night couldn’t have been any better.
“I’ve worked for five years now to try to get this,” said McMurtrey, who scored a game-high 21 points. “To share it with the group of girls I did, it was the best feeling.
“I wouldn’t want it to be any other teammates, any other year. It’s the best thing ever.”
Two years ago coach Jace Bryant inherited an OC team coming off an 81-22 humiliation to South in the 2012 District 29 title game. Last year the Lady Colonels nearly beat the Lady Dragons, but faltered in the final minutes and fell 46-44.
This time Byant’s team came out on top.
“It feels really good,” he said. “It was hard because we played a South Oldham team that’s used to winning. South Oldham’s full of champions and we knew they weren’t going to quit.
“…This is big for our girls. This group of girls had never won a varsity championship of any kind. So this is just good for our girls, it’s good for our school and it’s good for our momentum next week (in the Region 8 tournament).
OC (15-9) will get a No. 1 seed in the region tournament, meaning it’ll play a runner-up from either District 30, 31 or 32 Monday or Tuesday at Grant County in the first round.
South (9-15) will draw a district winner in the first round, meaning they could meet either Litkenhous-rated No. 2 Anderson County or No. 5 Simon Kenton the first round.
The draw to determine the region bracket is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
“You can still lose (districts) and make it the (region) finals,” South coach Christy Higdon said. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
This year’s district championship looked for awhile like it’d play out like last year’s, when OC blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
This time once again the Lady Colonels were leading comfortably, up 45-34 with four minutes to play after McMurtrey scored off a Kasey Wernert pass.
South had an answer. Sydney Jones hit a 3 to make the score 45-37. Emma Sedoris put back a missed shot to cut it to 45-39. Holly Schumm scored to make the deficit four.
Finally Abbey Van Zant, who hit the game-winning shot in last year’s district title game, hit a jumper to make the score 45-43 with a minute to play.
Meanwhile the OC offense was stalling, including one possession where McMurtrey and Wernert had a mix-up and McMurtrey fired a pass into the stands.
“There for a second I had a couple of turnovers and I let the crowd get to me, I let nerves get to me,” McMurtrey said. “But I knew the only way we were going to win was if we just stall some time and run the clock and let the buzzer buzz and know that we just won a championship.”
A big defensive play helped, too.
With 37 seconds left and down two points, Jones had what appeared to be an open 3-pointer from the left corner. But as the ball left Jones’ hand, Wernert, one of the smallest players on the court, reached up and blocked the shot.
“It was pretty exciting,” Wernert said. “I knew I couldn’t let her shoot the ball so I just jumped up and got it.”
An ensuing scramble resulted in a jump ball, with the possession arrow going to South.
But Lady Dragon guard Erin Wilson threw the ball away to OC freshman guard Kylee Nuernberger. Nuernberger was fouled and knocked down two free throws to make the score 47-43.
Another South possession came up empty and McMurtrey put the finishing touches on the win with a layup to make the score 49-43.
Abigail Stewart scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for OC before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Jayla Davis and Wernert scored six and five points, respectively.
Sedoris led the Lady Dragons with 15 points. Wilson scored 11 while Jones added seven.
South Oldham – 13, 3, 9, 18 – 43
Oldham County – 14, 6, 14, 16 – 50
South Oldham – Sedoris 15, Wilson 11, Jones 7, Van Zant 6, Platt 2, Schumm 2
Oldham County – McMurtrey 21, Stewart 11, Davis 6, Wernert 5, Nuernberger 4, Patrick 3
All-District Tournament Team
MVP – Ashley McMurtrey, Oldham County