A solid defensive effort combined with blistering shooting from the field keyed No. 3 Oran's mild upset of No. 2-seed Saxony.
"I'm really pleased with our kids effort tonight," said Oran coach Jason Andrews. "Our game plan all year has been to stick people on defense and rebound and the kids really took that to heart."
Saxony coach John Daniel said, "We've played 99 games in our four years here and we've gone 75-24. I felt their defensive intensity tonight was the best we've seen."
The Eagles' offense also loomed large in the victory, as they broke open a tight game, in which they held a slim 38-37 edge late in the third quarter, with an 11-0 run which boosted the lead to 49-37 early in the fourth period.
Oran, behind Chase Seyer's 10 points, led 12-6 after the first quarter. Seyer finished with a game-high 25 points.
"We want to get Chase touches early and establish the post game," said Andrews. "He's our leading scorer and shoots a high percentage from the floor, too. He was very focused tonight and knocked down shots."
The Eagles' offense received an added bonus with the hot outside shooting of junior guard Steven Mock, who scored all 21 of his points from behind the arc. He hit seven 3-pointers, five in the crucial second half.
Said Andrews, "Steven is 'the Microwave.' When he's on, it's lights out."
Oran took an 18-11 advantage in the second quarter, but the Crusaders battled back to pull within three at 20-17. Mock's trey at the buzzer sent the Eagles in with a 23-17 halftime lead.
Saxony (21-6) tallied the first six points of the third quarter to pull into a tie at 23, but Mock stroked two in a row from downtown to reestablish the Oran lead.
"We tied it early in the third, then they hit two 3-pointers in a row," said Daniel. "Mock was just unconscious tonight. He's a great shooter."
Saxony rallied once more, behind senior post Tim Lorenz' eight straight points, to knot the score at 33, but the red-hot Mock struck again from 3-
point range to put the Eagles up 36-33, a lead they never lost.
But, it was much more than a two-man show for Oran.
"We had a lot of big plays in the game," said Andrews. "Jordan Mason did a great job defensively and Hunter Glastetter--some of our unsung heroes did a great job."
Mason shadowed Lauren Leuders, Saxony's best 3-point shooter, for most of the night and helped hold her scoreless.
Lorenz paced the Crusaders with 21 points while Casey Petzoldt added 15.
While Oran avenged an earlier 17-point loss to Saxony, Daniels felt the Eagles' style of play was key in this one.
"Postseason play is often a lot more physical than regular-season play," he said, "and I thought Oran made the adjustment better than we did."
Now, it's on to the final for Oran against top-seed Bell City.
"It's nice to win in March," said Andrews. "That's what it's all about. (Bell City) is a tremendous team. We're going to go in there and compete and battle. That's why you play the game. We're not going to come in and give it to them. If they're good enough to beat us, and they may be--they've beat us three times already, and I'm not foolish, but we're going to come and battle."
Oran and Bell City tangle for the district championship on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Bell City rolled over Delta, 76-38, in the other semifinal on Tuesday.
Going in, Bell City coach Brian Brandtner expressed caution.
"It scared me," he said. "We just played them about a week ago and beat 'em, so you always worry about a letdown."
There proved to be no basis for Brandtner's fear, as the No. 1-seed Cubs led wire-to-wire against the No. 5 Bobcats.
Led by 6-foot-10 Will Bogan, the Cubs' superiority on the backboards led to numerous multiple-shot opportunities.
"Our rebounding was a big edge in this game," said Brandtner. "I thought we came out and did the little fundamental things that help you win. We jumped the ball on defense, rebounded, guarded the ball pretty well most of the night and ran the court fairly well."
Bell City (24-4) limited the Bobcats to five first-quarter points on the way to a 19-5 lead, then upped it to 48-13 at the half.
The score ballooned to 66-17 late in the third quarter before Delta, playing against mostly Cubs' reserves, went on its most prolific offensive surge of the evening with a 12-2 run to close the period at 68-29.
Bell City starters reentered to open the fourth quarter and promptly extended the lead to 76-31 early before retiring to the bench.
Bogan led the Cubs with 23 points and shooting guard Nick Niemcyzk had 19.
Terrence Below paced the Bobcats, who closed the season at 8-18, with 17 points.
In light of the lopsided victory, Brandtner felt his team still benefited.
"We saw a box-and-one, a triangle-and-two, and I know teams are going to try that stuff so it was good to play against that and try some new stuff out," he said. "We're going to prepare tomorrow and get ready for the district championship."
Bell City faces Oran on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.