FRANCONIA >> There haven’t been many scenarios this season Owen J. Roberts hasn’t been able to wriggle its way out of.
Case in point was the start of Friday’s fourth quarter at Souderton. Down 11 on the road in an unusual afternoon start in a gym full of students happy to be out of class early, the Wildcats turned the game around in a blink. A bit later, with their leading scorer on the bench trying to stop a bloody nose, OJR found a way to win the game.
Some key shots from Hannah Clay helped the No. 14 Wildcats rally for a 42-40 overtime win at No. 12 Souderton to secure the ninth state 6A tournament seed coming out of District 1.
“It’s like our m.o., we love to make it tight,” OJR coach Jeremy Mellon said. “This team is just super-resilient and that’s what happens when you have a lot of seniors who have been through the journey and have a lot of desire.”
The Wildcats, who are advancing to states for the first time, picked up a 20th win for the first time in school history and will face the District 2 winner in Friday’s first round. Their experience showed late, whether it was forcing a turnover to spur on the fourth quarter rally, Clay hitting a big shot or putting just enough extra effort in to win a 50-50 play.
On Souderton’s end, it may be a fourth straight state playoff appearance but only senior Mikaela Reese could really claim any experience of having been there. An extremely young team that’s improved leaps and bounds over the season and earned its spot in Friday’s first round by navigating the playback bracket, the Indians still didn’t close Friday strong enough.
“They got a majority of 50-50 balls, we struggle against muscle and they were very disciplined and do all the little things,” Souderton coach Lynn Carroll said. “They play hard and we had a few mental lapses where we weren’t matched up. Clay had wide-open looks at times and all over the scouting report is how good a shooter she is, so it wasn’t good enough on our end from top to bottom.”
With Souderton hosting a regional wrestling tournament this weekend, the game tipped at 1:30 p.m. and as a result, most of the student body was in the stands at the start of the game. When a majority of them got up to catch their respective buses home, Owen J. Roberts made its move to get back in the game.
A slow-paced first half saw the Wildcats lead 7-5 after a quarter thanks in large part to their offensive rebounding while Souderton’s defense controlled the second quarter for a 15-11 halftime lead. During the second, Clay hit what looked like a clear three-point shot that the officials ruled a two, giving the senior a little more incentive to lead her team later.
“We don’t care who gets the credit, which is important,” Mellon said. “Maddi Koury did such a great job in the first quarter when we looked so timid and when we hit a lull at halftime, we had to get more aggressive and pick it up. We said keep doing what we’re doing, just be more aggressive.”
Jordan Zimmerman, who picked up three first half fouls, got herself involved plenty in the third quarter. The Souderton junior guard connected on a pair of threes in the quarter for eight points as she and Reese combined for all 13 Indians points.
OJR didn’t get its first field goal of the second half until 1:35 remained in the third but they were able to get to the line eight times thanks to their newfound aggression. Mellon noted his team couldn’t buy a layup for much of the game but he figured the ability to attack the rim would eventually pay off.
Souderton meanwhile, managed to extend its lead to 31-20 when Reese found a cutting Erin Bohmueller for a layup and foul with 7:48 to play. Clay answered with a three on the other end, which Carroll called a significant moment.
“We had momentum, big time, and next possession down the court we’re not matched up and Clay hit a wide-open 3-pointer,” Carroll said. “I think that was the turning point of the game.”
Olivia Leclaire followed with a basket from Koury, Avery White hit two at the line and after Reese split a pair at the stripe, Leclaire got a steal to feed White for a layup and White forced a turnover Clay hit to pull within one.
Leclair gave the Wildcats their first lead of the second half with 1:56 to go, but a Reese free throw tied the game with 1:32 left. Working for the last shot, Owen J. Roberts lost Leclair when three players collided trying to work over a screen, with the senior taking the worst of it with 3.4 on the clock.
While Souderton defended Clay from getting a clean look to end regulation, she hit a midrange jumper to start OT and hit a huge three with 2:23 left to put OJR up 40-36.
“That’s what’s great about seniors, you get on them for years but by this point, they’re almost an extension of you,” Mellon said. “They know what you’re thinking, what you feel and what’s ok. She knows when she has the green light and she makes big-time shots in big-time moments.”
The game wasn’t over until the final horn, but a last offensive rebound by the Wildcats off a missed free throw made sure they went into the state tournament with a winning streak.
Souderton will open states against District 12 champion Cardinal O’Hara on Friday. Reese led the Indians with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
“We have to take some things from this in terms of how do we not let it happen again next week but keep in perspective that we’re not done here,” Carroll said. “We have next week to continue to get better as a team.”
OWEN J. ROBERTS 42, SOUDERTON 40 (OT)
OWEN J. ROBERTS 7 4 9 13 9 – 42
SOUDERTON 5 10 13 5 7 – 40
Owen J. Roberts: Hannah Clay 5 2-2 14, Avery White 3 4-6 10, Olivia Leclaire 3 2-4 8, Brooke Greenawald 2 0-1 4, Maddi Koury 1 4-6 6. Totals: 14 12-19 42.
Souderton: Jordan Zimmerman 4 0-0 10, Erin Bohmueller 2 1-1 5, Olivia Schneider 1 2-4 4, Casey Harter 1 0-0 2, Mikaela Reese 5 7-12 17, Hannah Alderfer 1 0-0 2. Totals: 14 10-19 40.
3-pointers: OJR – Clay 2, S – Zimmerman 2.
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