Indians win first conference tourney as Gamm scores 1,000th career point

School of the Osage got over the hump.

After three straight years of making the Tri-County Conference Tournament finals and coming away empty-handed, the Indians would not be denied Saturday night at Southern Boone as they pulled away from Blair Oaks 37-25 for their first conference tournament title. It also happened to be the 17th straight tournament championship appearance for Osage, including district tournaments, and a program that has made two straight state quarterfinal appearances was more than happy to add another milestone to its resume.

“I guess in this one the fourth time is a charm like they always say,” Osage coach Scott Rowland joked.

“Obviously you don’t win them all, but the fact that they keep putting themselves in this position is such a testament to how hard they work and how smart they are.. It was just a great night.”

It was even sweeter for the seniors who finally checked another goal off the list. Osage came in as the fourth seed in the eight-team tournament and left on top after knocking out top-seeded California in the semifinals and the No. 2 Falcons of Blair Oaks to bring home the hardware.

“It feels amazing because we talked about it before the game about how this was our fourth time being in the championship game and we fell to great teams each time. We wanted to push really hard and get that win,” said Osage senior Carson Wood who led the Indians with 13 points. “Having the win over California and coming in as the fourth seed, that really helped motivate us to want to show up and show that we could be a good team.”

And another one of those seniors just happened to score their 1,000th career point in the process. Kerrigan Gamm became the fourth Indian in program history to reach the milestone after knocking down a layup late in the fourth quarter. However, the senior was quick to point out that the achievement spoke more towards her supporting cast of teammates and coaches.

“I just want to say thank you to all my teammates because without them none of this would have been possible at all. So, a big shoutout to them and my coaches,” Gamm said after adding 12 points in the win for the Indians. “They just make everything possible and I’m glad I had the opportunity.”

Like the old saying goes, defense wins championships and Saturday night proved to be no different. Although, some rebounding and knocking down a few free throws down the stretch may have aided in the effort.

In a championship game, points came at a premium as Osage held just an 11-9 lead at halftime. Still, the Indians managed to keep Blair Oaks in an offensive funk the rest of the way as they never relinquished the lead.

“I really do feel like consistently we are a good defensive squad and especially when you focus on rebounding. We are not very big and we are not small, but we are just kind of all medium,” Rowland said of his club that features no player over 5-foot-10. “Against a team like Blair Oaks, you have to limit second shots and we did that and against California, it was the same thing. In the second half we gave up almost no offensive rebounds, but that is something you can bring every night and these kids have bought into it.

“They bring defensive intensity every night and just hope the shots go down.”

Meanwhile, Blair Oaks featured two players over six feet tall and Osage managed to minimize their impact with a compact 2-3 zone defense that crowded the paint and did not allow the Falcons to easily utilize their high-low post offense. The Indians forced 13 total turnovers on the night.

“We knew going in that if we did not take their posts out, we would not do very well,” Wood said of the defensive strategy. “So, we worked hard on making sure we could take them out and play our game. It worked out very well.”

Osage managed to extend its lead to as many as six points midway through the third quarter, but Blair Oaks quickly tied the game back up with back-to-back 3-pointers. This did not phase the Indians, though, as the lead went back to five points by the end of the frame.

This is where the free throws started to come into play.

Osage was just 15-24 from the charity stripe as a team, but made 12 of 15 free throws in the second half to help put the game away. Add that to the fact that the Indians only made seven field goals in the second half for a total of 14 points respectively.

“The first couple of games our free throws were a little rough so we have been working on them a lot lately,” Wood pointed out. “It is good to come in a game and see all your progress turn out.”

Rowland was certainly glad some of those free throws started falling through the net. The coach said just simply driving the ball inside was likely not going to work against a tall Falcons defense, but it was nice to see the team find some other ways to score when some of the outside shots were not connecting.

“They always say, ‘Go to the rack, make a couple of free throws and the ball will start going in.’ Well, at least the free throws started going in and I don’t know if anything else did,” the coach said with a smile. “We saw some nice flashes out in transition and I think that is what we want to do a little bit more than what happened tonight, but we are pretty good in transition, too.”

Payton Good added chipped in five points, sophomore Sara Wolf contributed four and fellow sophomore Liberty Gamm added three to help fuel the win. Osage’s lead grew to as many as 13 points in the final quarter and thinking Blair Oaks may continue to foul before the clock wound down too far and the lead grew too great, Rowland called on Kerrigan to get the ball. At that point, the senior had a pretty good idea why.

“I knew a couple of games ago I was getting close,” Gamm said of hitting 1,000 points. “Then I got down to 19 and after playing California I was down to 12. I try not to look at the score, but as soon as he pointed out that I needed the ball I knew I probably should have done something with it. It was an awesome feeling.”

As soon as Gamm hit the layup, a timeout was called and the announcer from Southern Boone announced the accomplishment, which was followed by applause around the gymnasium.

“To be the fourth one is pretty impressive and pretty select company,” Rowland stated. “It was a neat way to do it and to have the game be in a place where we could call a timeout and recognize her, it was nice of Southern Boone to do so and that was so cool. She is a very deserving kid and most of the time it is not Kerrigan just taking it, but Kerrigan getting a good pass and then taking it. She cannot do it by herself and she is very quick to admit that. Her teammates make her who she is.”

As a team, Osage is now 3-1 on the season and the rest of the conference now knows who the current team is to beat. Although the early season tournament title is nice to have, Rowland said nothing can be taken for granted moving forward.

“The top half (of the conference) is so loaded. When a team that finished second in Class 3 finishes fourth in at your tournament, you have a pretty stout conference,” the coach stated. “There are good coaches, good teams and good players down the line. It is going toe a tough game no matter where you go.

“We don’t play any conference games for a while so we’ll try and keep getting better so when we do get to conference, we are ready for them because there will be people coming after us.”

Osage was scheduled to host Richland on Monday and will host Eugene on Thursday at 6 p.m. Time will soon tell if the winning streak can continue.

“With all our hard work and effort we put forth in practices every day, being able to show the heart like we did against California being down by 10 or and being able to come back and win it just proves how much heart and soul our team has and how great we can really be,” Gamm said.

“This is a big milestone for us and shows what we are capable of so we just need to keep working hard every day and keep pushing.”