FITHIAN — Stephanie Marsh’s voice told the story.
The Oakwood girls’ basketball coach struggled to call timeouts throughout Friday night’s Oakwood McDonald’s Comet Classic championship game against Tri-County.
A raucous crowd at The Pit — filled with rooters of both programs — necessitated Marsh screaming repeatedly whenever she desired a stoppage in play.
With less than 10 seconds on the clock and the Comets possessing the ball while up one point, Marsh’s pleas again went unheard by the three on-court officials.
Disaster? Not so much.
“I am glad they did not hear the last timeout,” Marsh said with a smile. “Clearly I was trying.”
Tri-County’s players simultaneously tried to commit a foul, but none was called as Oakwood held on for a 60-59 victory on its home court.
“This is amazing,” said Marsh, in her second season leading the Comets. “Even last year we struggled to win in these close ones, so this felt great to pull out a close win. And I told the girls, ‘It doesn’t get any closer than one point.’”
Freshman Addie Wright’s corner jumper with less than 30 seconds left turned out to be the decisive basket for Oakwood (5-1). Tayler Barry responded with a layup for the Titans (4-1) to trim Tri-County’s deficit to 60-59, but the Comets played keepaway well enough afterward to secure first place in the eight-team tournament.
“It’s fun to play with these girls,” said Wright, who compiled 16 points for Oakwood. “They’re just really hard workers.”
The same can be said for the 5-foot-11 Wright, who didn’t score in the first quarter but offered a secondary option in the paint alongside senior and 6-1 Murray State signee Katelyn Young (23 points).
“We look big, we rebound well and they are all very versatile,” said Marsh, grouping 5-11 Aaliyah Denius (four points) with Wright and Young. “So it’s nice to have those bigs.”
Tri-County was able to defy the Comets on this stage one year prior, rolling to the top spot with a 70-32 title-game rout.
Coach Joe Morrisey’s Titans look quite a bit different this time around, after graduating four starters from Class 1A’s fourth-place outfit. Not to mention Barry, the one remaining starter, was seeing her first action of this season Friday evening.
“Maybe we overfocused on Katelyn Young, and she did a great job,” Morrisey said. “The other girls that were with her did a great job helping her out.”
Sophomore Ashlynn Pinnick was at the forefront in that regard early on, producing eight of her 12 points in the first quarter. And while Young and Wright did much of the heavy lifting points-wise beyond that, Marsh noted it took a full team effort to overcome Tri-County’s constant full-court pressure.
“It’s just toughness, really,” Wright said of how Oakwood overcame the swarming Titans, who generated 30 turnovers. “We had to play tough because we knew that they were going to be, so we just had to match up to their toughness.”
Barry, a junior, battled to 16 points despite playing the final eight minutes with four fouls. Freshman Kaylin Williams banked 12 points off the bench, and sophomore Bella Dudley added 12 points before fouling out with 1:43 to play.
Morrisey acknowledged his new-look club, which committed 18 turnovers of its own, still is finding its sea legs, with senior Cailynne Phillips and junior Kaylenn Hunt also integral pieces despite limited playing time last season.
“We’re still a ways away from where we were at (last season),” Morrisey said. “We’re going to grow on some things. One of those two steps forward, one step back (situations).”
For the Comets, this result can be viewed as a big leap of progress. Marsh’s roster boasts just eight players, and only Young and guard Aubrey Wells are seniors.
Given what Oakwood achieved in defending its home court, though, it’ll be hard to overlook the Comets moving forward.
Even if the same can’t always be said of Marsh calling timeouts in the future.
“I tell my girls all the time, ‘It takes all five of you that are on the court to win games like this,’” Marsh said, “and they all stepped up when we needed them to.”
Hoopeston Area 56, Uni High 18. Ali Watson proved virtually unstoppable in sending the ball through the hoop as the Cornjerkers (3-1) blew past the Illineks (5-2) in the third-place tilt.
Watson poured in 28 points for Hoopeston Area and finished just two rebounds shy of a double-double by accumulating eight. Tori Birge was Hoopeston Area’s next-best scoring option with eight points.
Judah Christian 52, Blue Ridge 39. Three members of the Tribe (2-4) landed in double figures scoring to help the unit past the Knights (3-3) in the fifth-place matchup.
Sa’kinah Williams complemented her 20 points with six rebounds and two blocked shots for Judah, which also netted Lyndon Pelmore’s 12 points, seven boards and five assists, as well as Jenna Barnhart’s 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Jenna Mozingo scored a team-high 16 points for the Knights, while Meah Carter wasn’t far behind with 12 points.
Rantoul 51, Westville 19. The Eagles (1-5) held a 25-6 advantage at halftime and never looked back en route to both their first win of the season and the tournament’s seventh-place slot.
Tanaya Young soared to 19 points for Rantoul, hitting 7 of 8 free throws in that output. She was backed by 14 points from MyeJoi Williams.
The Tigers (0-5) garnered five points from Hunter Lange and four apiece from Emma Myers and Chloe Brant.