TINORA – For the second consecutive year, the Lady Rams and The Lady Pilots gave everyone in attendance an instant classic.
As both teams took the floor on a Thursday night at Tinora, on the mind of both teams was staying atop the GMC standings, both Tinora and Ayersville were the lone undefeated teams in the conference play at 2-0.
The Lady Pilots came in red-hot, winners of 7 of their last 8, and 11-2 overall. The Lady Rams were coming in off a Tuesday night defeat to state ranked Elmwood, Tinora sported a 9-4 record.
In an electric atmosphere from Tinora, fans packed both sides, student sections were in full force as teams tipped off on a Thursday night.
In a first quarter where both teams tried to place their stake in the ground, Ayersville jumped out to an early lead over the Lady Rams 4-0, grabbing a 9-7 lead after the initial quarter.
Both coaches, Tim Nicely of Ayersville, and Kyle Tietje, realized they were in for a fight after a rugged first quarter.
The second stanza saw the Lady Pilots jump to a 19-7 lead midway through the quarter. As the fouls were mounting for the Lady Rams, Tinora mounted a rally in the final three minutes, outscoring Ayersville12-4, three point baskets by Anna Gray and Liv Mueller cut the Lady Pilots lead to 23-19 as both teams headed to the half.
Kaylee Dockery led the Pilots with seven, while the Rams were led by Nova Okuley who tallied nine first half points.
Teams knew what was on the line as they exited the locker room, and they both showed it in the third quarter.
Bodies flying, players diving for loose balls, student sections shouting, each player emptied the tank in the last 16 minutes.
The Lady Rams tied the game at 25 right out of the gate to start the third, courtesy of Liv Mueller and Karli Okuley three point baskets. Ayersville wasted little time grabbing the lead back at 26-25. Ayersville would go on to increase their lead to as many as seven at 33-26.
Lady Rams head coach Kyle Tietje asked for a timeout after a Tinora turnover with just under three minutes left in the third.
Full court pressure by the Lady Rams, as well as five quick points out of the timeout, closed the lead to 33-31. The Lady Pilots would end the third quarter with a 40-35 lead.
A fourth quarter for the ages was to come. Lady Pilot Kaylee Dockery was willing her teammates as she was scoring 14 second half points. Lady Rams Liv Mueller, Anna Gray, Karli Okuley, and Nova Okuley were doing the same.
Tinora chipped away at the Ayersville lead, finally grabbing their first lead of the game at the 4:21 mark on a Nova Okuley runner in the lane, 47-46.
The lead was short lived as Ayersville’s Dockery converted a three point play, giving the Pilots a 49-47 lead.
A Nova Okuley steal and score with 3:30 remaining tied the game at 49-49.
Nothing defines the night other than the Lady Rams possession with just over two minutes remaining. The Lady Rams left everything on the floor, although they didn’t score, but would not give in as they had five straight offensive rebounds as tey battled the Lady Pilots in the paint.
The following Pilots possession resulted in a Live Mueller steal and an Amanda Meyer put back, giving the Lady Rams a 51-49 lead at the two-minute mark.
A runner in the lane by Ayersville’s Dockery cut the Rams lead to 52-51 with just 40 seconds remaining. After a steal and a miss from the Lady Pilots, Karli Okuley was fouled with 29 seconds remaining.
Karli stepped to the line shooting 33%. The crowd was a frenzy as Okuley toed the line with the Rams leading by one, 52-51.
In a moment the Lady Rams will remember for a long time, a little guy came running on the court from the stands to get the basketball from Karli. As everyone went from cutting the tension with a knife to bursting out laughing, the 10 seconds of laughter seemed to calm the Tinora sophomore as she stepped back to the line, nailing both free throws, giving the Lady Rams a 54-51 lead.
The Tinora defense stepped up in the last 20 seconds, denying the Pilots. Lady Rams Emily Harr hit one of two free throws with 14 seconds left, giving the Lady Rams a hard fought, exhausting 55-51 win in the River Rivalry.
This was a total team win, no doubt about it. Each Lady Rams player left 110% effort on the floor tonight, win, lose or draw.
The Higbea Embroidery Player of the Game award was shared tonight between Nova Okuley and Karli Okuley.
Nova with a great rebound game after being held scoreless on Tuesday, Karli with nerves of steel as she sank two free throws with 29 seconds remaining to give the Rams a three point lead. Congratulations to both ladies.
With the win, Tinora improves to 10-4, 3-0 in GMC play. Tinora will travel to Hicksville on the 20th in another HUGE league game.
Ayersville falls to 11-3, 2-1 in the GMC. Ayersville plays at Kalida on the 18th.
Quarter by quarter:
1st: 9-7 Ayersville
2nd: 23-19 Ayersville *Ayersville led 21-8 at one point
3rd: 40-35 Ayersville
Final: 55-51 Tinora
Nova Okuley 16 points (2 3 pointers)
Anna Gray 13 points (2 3 pointers) 8 rebounds
Liv Mueller 12 points (4 3 pointers)
Karli Okuley 8 points (1 3 pointer) 4 rebounds
Emily Harr 3 points
Amanda Meyer 3 points 5 rebounds
Kaylee Dockery 21 points (2 3 pointers)
Taylor Craft 8 points 15 rebounds
Ally Schindler 6 points 7 rebounds
Kacee Okuley 6 points
Maci Froelick 4 points 8 rebounds
Neva Sheets 4 points
Mabel McGuire 2 points
Team 3 Pointers
Team Free Throws
JV Score 42-9 Tinora
Sierra Brown, Dakota Shaffner, & Julia Durfey all with 10 each for the Lady Rams.
JV- 14-1 (3-0)