Update: The Senior Night game has been moved to Saturday, Feb. 17.
With senior point guard Kiah Fields sidelined by injury, the Oberlin girls were keenly aware of the need to expand their roles in Saturday’s match-up with Black River.
The Pirates were coming off a solid win over Firelands, but the Phoenix pulled out a thrilling 56-52 Patriot Conference win in Sullivan.
With Bryanna Rivas and Cameron Payne picking up much of the ball-handling duties, the Phoenix adjusted to the new wrinkles and flow in their offense.
“The girls really stepped up today,” coach Tiffany Shields beamed. “Not only did Bry and Cam do an excellent job bringing the ball up the court and setting up the offense, we had others contribute mightily off the bench. Aniya (Smith) was a force in the lane on both ends, blocking shots on defense and then hustling down the court to provide put-back and rebounding opportunities for our offense.”
At 6 feet 2 inches, Smith cuts an imposing presence in the lane and her seven blocked shots, eight rebounds, and nine points are testimony to the force she is becoming.
It took a couple of quarters for the Phoenix to get their feet under them. The Pirates found space in the lane early and earned put-backs to take a 30-24 lead into the locker room at the half.
As the Oberlin offense finally kicked into gear in the second half, sophomore and leading scorer Victoria Jackson converted on a pair of three-point plays while Payne bombed away from the outside, recording two of her five three-point buckets in the third quarter.
“Cam has become a very dependable outside shooter. Today marks three games in the last two weeks where she’s hit five jumpers from beyond the arc,” said Shields. “That really forces the defense out to her and opens up the lane for folks like Jackson, Karissa Rankin, and Smith who can operate more effectively down low.”
The Phoenix and Pirates entered the fourth quarter all knotted up at 46, and Black River again took a small lead on Erica Benson free throws. But the Phoenix rose up, closing out the game on an 8-0 run to secure the victory.
Jackson led the team with 17 points, followed closely by Payne with 15, Smith and Rankin with nine apiece, and Rivas with six. Rankin (10 rebounds) and Smith (8) wiped the glass clean throughout the game.
Oberlin hosts Lutheran West at 1 p.m. on Saturday.