Oh so close.
The Phoenix girls hosted Fairview and Brookside in successive games this past week and — while agonizingly close — dropped both contests.
Coach Tiffany Shields had been looking forward to the Fairview rematch after dropping a tightly contested affair earlier in the season. “We felt this would be a really good measuring stick for our progress when they came to play us in the second half of the season,” she said.
As it turned out, just as in the first match-up, junior Karissa Rankin led all scorers — this time pouring in 28 of the 43 Phoenix points — but Oberlin came up short, falling 48-43.
“Our defense was solid most of the game but we missed a few opportunities to score off of turnovers and when you miss those in a close game, that can make the difference,” Shields said. “The girls are working hard and continuing to improve. We’re hoping to carry that improvement forward when we face Black River on Saturday.”
In the second game of the week, Brookside went racing out of the gate, scoring 27 points in the first quarter and ultimately holding on for a 66-56 win.
But it wasn’t an easy win.
Plagued by early turnovers, Oberlin flipped the script in the second quarter. Bolstered by seven points from sophomore Victoria Jackson and six from senior guard Kiah Fields, the Phoenix climbed back into the contest with 21 tallies of their own and only trailed 41-33 at the break.
The Phoenix kept the pressure on, narrowing the margin to just two points on multiple occasions in the third quarter thanks in large part to a trio of three-point buckets from senior sharpshooter Cameron Payne.
Payne, with 15 points, and Jackson, with 14, led the Phoenix point parade on the day while Rankin chipped in nine and Fields eight.
The Oberlin comeback stalled in the face of foul trouble and injury. Rankin picked up her fourth midway into the third quarter and headed to the bench while Fields headed off the court after landing awkwardly following a drive into the lane.
“I really thought the girls had gotten into a groove and we were going to complete the comeback” noted Shields. “Our defense had stepped it up and momentum appeared to moving our way. I was really impressed how the girls didn’t quit when we got down early. We’ll head back to the practice sessions and keep working. Someday soon, we’re going win one of these close ones.”
Oberlin (3-13, 1-10 in the Patriot Athletic Conference) travels to Black River on Saturday for a 1 p.m. tip-off.