(Photo Brent Shipman, Staff)
ORAN -- Holding off a resilient Oran Lady Eagles squad on Wednesday, the Charleston Lady Bluejays earned a matchup with Scott County Central in today's Scott-Mississippi Conference championship game.
After trailing as late as the fourth quarter, the Lady Bluejays pulled away from the Lady Eagles in the final minutes of play for a 69-60 win.
"We knew Oran wasn't going to go away," Charleston head coach Josh Thompson said. "They play hard and when a team plays hard and is physical, that keeps them in games.
"I was proud my kids, they overcame that physicality that Oran brought. We stepped up late in the game and were able to pull it out."
Few would have expected a neck and neck race through the final three quarters of play when the Lady Bluejays opened up the game on a 19-7 run.
Scoring seven straight points to end the first frame, however, the Lady Eagles started a 14-2 rally that saw them tie things up with 4:22 left in the half.
Neither team was able to create much separation the following two quarters.
With 5:28 left to play, Oran held their biggest lead of the night at 56-53.
A bucket in the paint from E'Neikqua Ewing and a free throw from Cheyenne Randle put the Bluejays back even with Oran before a 3-pointer from Sierra Frazier put the Lady Bluejays on top for good.
Another free throw pushed Charleston's lead to four and with just over two minutes remaining, Randle stole a pass which led to a layup by Frazier to put her team up 62-56.
Frazier's basket capped a 9-0 Lady Bluejay run allowing the team to go in clock-killing mode within the final two minutes of play
Charleston would eventually go up by as many as 11 points.
"It wasn't so much our offense that helped us out," Thompson said of the run, "it was that we played a lot better defense and we took care of the ball. We knew we could score when we didn't throw it away and played good defense."
Also helping the Lady Bluejays' cause was the absence of Oran's leading scorer Addie Kielhofner for most of the fourth.
After collecting a team-high 15 points, Kielhofner picked up her fifth foul with 7:50 left in the final frame.
Oran rallied for eight of the next 10 points to retake the lead after Kielhofner's exit, but their run was short lived.
"I thought she only had four at that point," Oran head coach Ethan Evans said. "She makes us go and had gotten on a roll in the third quarter. That hurt us. She does a good job of patrolling the middle of the floor and getting to the basket."
Behind Kielhofner's 15 points, Chrissy Sauceda had 14, included a pair of 3-pointers while Tatum May added 10 points to the Lady Eagle's cause.
For Charleston, Ewing finished with a game-high 23 points while Frazier and Dazique Gillespie contributed 17 and 15 points respectively.
With the win, the Lady Bluejays are set to play Scott Central for the conference title tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Oran High School. Oran will play Scott City in the tournament's third-place game tonight at 5:30 p.m.
ORAN (60) -- Aubrianna Jones 2, Addie Kielhofner 15, Ashlyn McIntosh 4, Taylor Nenninger 8, Allie Cummins 3, Tatum May 10, Chrissy Sauceda 14, Allie Grojean 4. FG 23, FT 8-19, F 18. (3-pointers: Sauceda 2. Fouled out: Kielhofner.)
CHARLESTON (69) -- Sierra Frazier 17, Juwanna Walker 5, Cheyenne Randle 9, E'Neikqua Ewing 23, Dazique Gillespie 15. FG 25, FT 17-28, F 18. (3-pointers: Frazier 1, Gillespie 1. Fouled out: none.)