Indians' late offensive woes gives California the edge in title game

It was a game of runs when Osage hosted California on the hardwood in 3rd annual Tri-County Conference Tournament title game Friday night. 

The Pintos opened up the contest on a 9-0 run. Then the Indians bounced back and created an 8-point advantage midway through the second. Ultimately, California had a little more gas in the tank though and would go on to have the last laugh as a pair of 3-pointers, including an NBA-range shot, led to a 7-point halftime lead that Osage would never overcome. 

After Osage closed the deficit to a single point midway through the third quarter, California jumped back out to an 8-point lead at the end of the third and shut down the Indian offense for nearly four minutes in the fourth quarter with a 2-3 zone defense. Osage managed five free throws and just one field goal that came with 22.5 seconds remaining in the contest as California claimed the conference tournament crown in a 69-59 win. 

“They have some speed and widen out in the 2-3 (zone) a little bit more than what we normally see. It maybe made our shots a little more rusty, but Kerrigan (Gamm) and Carson (Wood) got some good shots,” Osage coach Scott Rowland said of his team’s late offensive struggles. “We did a pretty good job, but against them (California) you are going to have to shoot a high percentage throughout the game to stay with them. If you don’t, it can get out of hand in a hurry.” 

Rowland surmised that California used the 2-3 zone defensive strategy to slow down his club and prevent them from getting up and down the floor for some quick buckets to climb back in it. To California’s credit, it worked. 

Of course, it did not help matters that Osage’s two veteran point guards in senior Rose Colonius and the junior Wood missed a decent chunk of time due to the former player getting injured in the second quarter and the latter picking up three fouls before halftime. Both players came back to finish the game out, but the mountain was just a little too steep to climb.

“You don’t want  to say it is because of one person, but when Rose got hurt it took a little bit of time to adjust. She was playing well,” Rowland pointed out. 

“At 10 points it felt like it (the game) was a little bit closer than that because of the runs, but California is a good team and the best we’ve seen so far. That is what you’d want as a nice, competitive game for the championship.”

Osage’s Gamm and Wood finished the night with 13 points each to lead the Indians while Colonius finished with nine and junior Payton Good recorded eight. Although the scoreboard did not point in his team’s favor, Rowland was proud of the effort on display. 

“To see how they got kind of hit at the beginning being down 9-0, I burned a timeout but it was not like it got to be 26 to 5 or something like that,” the coach noted. “We just came back and when they (California) went on a run, we would answer it back. That is resiliency we are going to need heading forward.” 

This was also the third straight year that Osage has advanced to the conference tournament title game and the Indians are the only team to make an appearance in the finals all three years the tournament has existed. 

“You know, I would much rather lose this game than win the third place game, or fifth place game or something like that,” Rowland remarked. “They earned it and that is where they wanted to be. We did not get it, but I would much rather be in that game. They want to keep getting to the championships of tournaments and that is a goal they have so we feel pretty good about that part.” 

Another aspect that Rowland and his team enjoyed was the atmosphere that home court at School of the Osage provided as the Indians hosted the rest of the conference for the first time. 

“I just want to say thanks to all the people that came out. We had a really good crowd and the fact that the pep band played and they put it (the game) on the radio, I know it meant a lot to me and it meant a ton to the girls. They really appreciate it,” he said.

Although Osage has yet to win this particular tournament, the Indians have gone on to enjoy success at the end of the year with a share of the regular season conference title and district title in 2015 and another district championship a season ago on a run to the state quarterfinals. Rowland is looking forward to seeing if his club has another good run in them, one game at a time, as the latter half of the season gets underway. 

“As much as we try and learn from this and think about California, we don’t really have to worry about them for a month-and-a-half. So to us, way more important than this is Hallsville on Monday,” the coach stated. “If we have any designs of trying to be one of the top teams in conference, we have to win that game. If we want to be a conference contender, that is what we have to focus on… We’ll try and get better and see in a month-and-a-half how it goes.” 

Class 4 state-ranked No. 7 Osage (8-2 ) will host the fellow Indians of Hallsville on Monday at 6 p.m.