HOLLAND PATENT — The Oneida Indians came out blazing hot Saturday afternoon, drilling five 3-pointers in a 27-point first-quarter explosion.
The Indians seemed well on their way to an easy victory before things became difficult as a scrappy Holland Patent squad steadily clawed its way closer and closer and eventually cut an early 20-point deficit to 39-35 late in the third quarter.
In the end, the Indians stepped up their defensive effort when they needed it most to pull away in the fourth for a 55-43 nonleague victory at Holland Patent High School.
“We did have a quick start knocking down shots and Holland Patent did a nice job adjusting their defense and we kind of got in a lull for a while,” Oneida head coach Katie Nestler said. “Coming off a game last night we had some tired legs, so defensively we had to amp it up and we got some stops when we needed it in the fourth.”
Ella Rainbow scored 17 points to lead Oneida. Lauren Skibitski and Sydney Lusher made big second-half buckets in scoring 14 points apiece for the Indians, who improved to 16-3 heading into its regular season finale Tuesday at Notre Dame.
Holland Patent (9-11) was led by Haeden Roberts’ 16 points, but the junior was held scoreless in the fourth as Oneida focused on stopping the star center.
“Every night it’s someone new stepping up for us and we’re fortunate for that,” Nestler said. “Tonight Syd hit some big shots for us. But, I think the difference in the game was switching Lauren Skibitski on Roberts in the fourth. She really took her away and played great defense on her when we needed it.”
Cassidy Kotary was also key in Holland Patent’s comeback, scoring 14 points and playing tough defense on Skibitski.
“We couldn’t get out on their shooters and we needed to go to man (defense),” Kotary said. “When we went to man we started coming back, but we got tired at the end.”
The Indians, behind 10 points from Rainbow and nine from Skibitski, jumped all over the home team. Rainbow’s second 3-pointer of the game gave the Indians a 13-4 lead midway through the quarter.
“We definitely had really good defense at the start and it helped our offense,” Rainbow said. “After that, our defense wasn’t as good and our shots weren’t falling.”
With the Indians leading 18-6 with three minutes left, Skibitski got going, hitting a free throw, then sandwiching two 3-pointers around a lay-in for a quick nine points that pushed Oneida’s advantage to 27-8 after the opening eight minutes.
“The first quarter killed us,” Roberts said. “They destroyed our zone and we went to man. We don’t play man-to-man defense much. But I thought we played it really well for not playing it a lot. It was a new defense and new adjustment and I thought we handled it well and we came back and played really good in the second and third quarters.”
Holland Patent head coach Chris Richards’ move to switch to man defense helped the Golden Knights slowly, but surely, cut into the deficit over the next two quarters.
After Rainbow hit a nice step-back jumper to make it 29-9 early in the second, the Knights went on an 11-0 run to close to within nine before Rainbow closed out the quarter with a baseline jumper to make it 31-20 at the break.
The squads traded points early in the third, but back-to-back buckets by Roberts and Makenna Reinold cut Oneida’s lead to 39-35 with just over two minutes remaining in the third.
That’s when Lusher went to work, scoring on a drive and then on a short jumper to push the lead back to eight. However, Holland Patent wouldn’t go away and closed out the quarter with a 4-1 run on hoops by Anna Healey and Roberts to make it 44-39 heading into the fourth.
Rainbow opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to give the Indians some breathing room. Then, over the final seven minutes it was Lusher hitting timely shots and Skibitski and the Indians clamping down defensively as the Indians held Holland Patent to four points in the quarter and pulled away to close out the victory.
“I definitely looked for my shot more, but we were just running our plays and my teammates made good passes,” Lusher said.
Despite the tough loss, the Golden Knights showed resiliency against a top opponent.
“Going down 19 in the first quarter killed us,” Richards said. “Our 3-2 didn’t work and we went man-to-man. In the second half we adjusted and took away the drive and kick very well. We played well to come back but kind of ran out of gas. They are a very good team.”
Oneida has already clinched the Tri Valley League Pioneer Division and will await Wednesday’s sectional seeding meeting before turning its focus on a sectional run in a loaded Class B field.
Oneida 55, Holland Patent 43
Oneida 27 4 13 11–55
HP 8 12 19 4–43
Oneida (16-3): Ella Rainbow 7-0 17; Lauren Skibitski 5-2 14; Sydney Lusher 6-1 14; Sophia Skinner 2-3 7; Kaylin Curro 1-0 3. Totals: 21-6-55. 3-Pointers: 7 (Rainbow 3, Skibitski 2, Lusher, Curro).
Holland Patent (9-11): Haedyn Roberts 6-4 16; Cassidy Kotary 5-3 14; Hanna Corrigan 3-1 7; Makenna Reinold 2-0 4; Anna Healey 1-0 2. Totals: 17-8-43. 3-Pointers: 1 (Kotary).