(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
ORAN -- Though filled with plenty of suspense, Oran's highly anticipated matchup with Leopold Friday didn't turn out quite how the Eagles had hoped.
With a chance to back Leopold in a corner in the final seconds with a pair of free throws, Oran saw the first half of a one-and-one fall short.
The Wildcats responded with a couple shots from the charity stripe that proved to be the game-winners in a 48-46 Leopold win.
"Obviously, I would have liked for it to have ended a little bit different," Oran head coach Joe Shoemaker said. "But two teams battled their butts off tonight. It just kind of came down to the way the ball bounced there at the end. Can't fault me kids, they played hard."
Neither team shot particularly well on the contest, but it was the Wildcats who found a way to control the first half and take a 28-23 lead into the break.
Oran warmed up slightly in the second half with Kody Moore starting the third quarter off with back-to-back baskets to knot things up. Neither team was able to separate more than three points the rest of the way as they swapped leads throughout the final quarter-and-a-half.
The teams were tied 44-44 with 1:10 to play when Brandon Jansen put the Wildcats in control with a tip-in. After a few missed opportunities on their next possessions Oran once again tied things when Seth Ressel stepped to the line with a pair of free throws with 34 seconds remaining.
Leopold looked to be setting up a final shot opportunity once back down the court only to see a steal from Ressel thwart their plans. Ressel was fouled in the backcourt and with 6.4 seconds to play was sent to the charity stripe with a chance to put Oran ahead for good.
Unfortunately for Ressel, who had already converted 6 of 6 free throws in the frame, his shot rimmed off and was collected by Leopold's Cameron Davis, who was immediately fouled.
"We weren't in a foul situation right there," Shoemaker said. "It was just a guy trying to make a play on a ball and I can't fault anybody for that right there."
With both teams already in the bonus, Davis was sent to the line with and looked to suffer a similar fate as Ressel when his first shot rimmed up before falling back in. Davis sunk his second shot to give his team a two-point advantage.
Just over six seconds still remained when Oran inbounded and looked to set up a last second shot. After struggling to move the ball up court, however, the Eagles final attempt from a few feet behind the 3-point line fell short as time expired.
"Cameron stepped up and made some huge free throws," Wildcats' head coach Andy Beck said. "That's something we've been struggling with and we knew coming down the stretch one of these games it's either going to cost us or we're going to step up when the time comes.
"Cameron stepped up. We figure we're going to be in trouble later on if we don't start making some free throws and he made them when it mattered."
Thanks to an impressive fourth quarter, Ressel led the Eagles with 13 points on the contest while collecting six assists, six rebounds and four steals. Ressel only came into the final frame with three points on the night, but scored six of the Eagles first eight points in the fourth to keep the Eagles in striking distance.
Hunter Schlosser was second on the team with 12 points while Moore finished with 11.
Oran only shot 35 percent on the night, including a 4 of 17 performance from behind the arc. Overall, they hit 17 of 48 attempts from the floor.
"We didn't do a very good job there at the end," Shoemaker said. "They guarded pretty well and have some quickness up top and some length. I think they're length and size kind of bugged us tonight on a lot of our shots."
Scoring 10 points in the fourth alone, Kyle Stroder had a game-high 21 points to lead Leopold. Davis and Brandon Jansen has 11 points each.
With Oran having scored over 60 points in each of their last 10 games, Beck praised how his kids handled Oran defensively.
Just one week ago, Oran's three leading scorers, Moore, Ressel and Alex Heuring combined for 71 points against Scott County Central. Leopold held those same three to 30 points.
"We had our work cut out for us," Beck said. "But I thought we played at a level above what we've been playing all year and that's what we've been needing.
"There was stretches were (Oran) tried to run, but we've been working all week on trying to slow them down."
LEOPOLD (48) -- Austin Busher 3, Kyle Stroder 21, Cameron Davis 11, Ethan Broshius 2, Brandon Jansen 11. FG 19, FT 8-14, F 16. (3-pointers: Busher 1, Stroder 1. Fouled out: none.)
ORAN (46) -- Kody Moore 11, Seth Ressel 13, Jacob Priggel 4, Hunter Schlosser 12, Alex Heuring 6. FG 17, FT 8-11, F 16. (3-pointers: Moore 3, Ressel 1. Fouled out: Moore.)