There’s a first time for everything, and after the last two seasons, the Otto-Eldred Lady Terrors’ basketball team secured a well-deserved D9 Championship for the first time in school history in comeback fashion, defeating the Elk County Catholic Lady Crusaders, 45-40 on Saturday, March 4th at PennWest Clarion’s Tippin Gym.
ECC started the game hot, jumping out to an 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter, 16-8 at the end of the first and 27-16 at halftime, the second-largest deficit O-E has faced this season.
Emily Mourer came up big for the Lady Crusaders throughout the first half run, scoring nine points.
The Lady Terrors chipped away at the lead out of the half and got within six, 35-29 at the end of the third quarter thanks to Bri Heller scoring six points in the frame off of strong dishes by Katie Sheeler.
A significant turning point was when Anna Merry shot a three-pointer early in the fourth and was fouled, and knocked down all three foul shots to get the Lady Terrors within a one-possession game for the first time during the contest.
The Lady Crusaders answered with a three of their own, and Brooke Close hit a game-changing corner three later in the quarter to tie the game at 38.
With 2:26 remaining, Sheeler dished out her biggest assist of the season to a wide open Carrie Drummond who finished in the paint to help O-E take its first lead, 40-38.
After both teams traded possessions, ECC missed a pair of jumpers in the paint but Mourer grabbed an offensive board and banked home a paint jumper to tie the game again at 40.
Sheeler, the top girls’ scorer in D9 and the all-time leading scorer at O-E, scored her most clutch points of the season with 33 seconds left, netting two free throws to put the Lady Terrors in front for good.
An ECC player unfortunately could not connect on two free throws on the ensuing possession, leading to another pair of fouls that caused O-E to put the game out of reach for ECC at the free throw line.
The win avenged last year’s D9 title game where ECC prevailed, 39-28.
Katie Sheeler led Otto-Eldred with 15 points and just repeated as the NTL MVP for the second consecutive season as well as Lady Terrors head coach Shawn Gray earning Co-Coach of the Year with Oswayo Valley’s Clark Cummings.
Brooke Close added 10 points for O-E while Anna Merry and Bri Heller each scored eight.
Emily Mourer netted 13 points to lead ECC, nine of which came in the first half, while Tori Newton scored eight with Syd Alexander and Lucy Klawuhn each adding seven.
Furthermore, both of Otto-Eldred’s boys and girls basketball teams have won the NTL back-to-back seasons without a blemish at 16-0 each year.
Both the Lady Terrors and Lady Crusaders advance to the state playoffs.
The Lady Terrors will kick off a rare home state playoff doubleheader on Saturday, March 11th, as they will take on the fifth place finisher out of District 7, Monessen, at 3 PM.
The boys will then take on the third place finisher out of District 7, Greensburg Central Catholic, at 4:30.