Late free throws propel Oakridge past Hamilton 38-30 in Class B regional semis

By Dave Hart

FREMONT- Making free throws down the stretch is often key to winning important basketball games.

And it’s particularly impressive when a freshman does it in a high-pressure situation.LSJ Logo incert

Oakridge freshman Sophia Wiard nailed eight crucial free throws in the fourth quarter Tuesday to help propel the Eagles past Hamilton 38-30 in a Class B regional semifinal game at Fremont High School on Tuesday night.

The Eagles, who improved to 20-2 on the season, will play Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Thursday in the regional final. Oakridge will be looking for its first regional title since 1991.

Oakridge guard Brandy Weaver drives around Hamilton's Abigail Ediger. Photo/Sherry Whar

Oakridge guard Brandy Weaver drives around Hamilton’s Abigail Ediger. Photo/Sherry Wahr

“I am really proud of how we hit our free throws at the end of the game,” said Oakridge Coach Terry DeJonge. “If we don’t make those free throws you never know what can happen after that.”

When asked about having a freshman get the job done at crunch time, DeJonge replied, “I want the freshman at the line. We probably won the game because our success at the free throw line. I am relieved, but I was hoping to gain some distance from them (Hamilton).”

The Eagles made 11 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter. Wiard led the way, nailing 8 of 10 from the charity stripe.

“It’s great, I love it coming out as a freshman, it’s just an awesome experience,” said Wiard, whose mother Renee Wiard-Burns was a senior on the Oakridge 1991 regional champion squad. “At practice (shooting free throws), I’m thinking this is for the championship, this will make us win, so it’s a mental part of the game.”

Wiard finished with 12 points for Oakridge. Hannah Reinhold led the Eagles with 13 points and McKenzie Davis grabbed six rebounds and chipped in defensively with six steals.

The contest started slow offensively, with the Eagles outscored Hamilton 9-4 during the first quarter.

Oakridge opened the second quarter by scoring the first six points to take a 15-4 advantage with three minutes left in the half.

The Hawkeyes responded with a 6-1 run and Oakridge led 16-10 at halftime.

Sophia Wiard drives to the basket for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

Sophia Wiard drives to the basket for Oakridge. Photo/Sherry Wahr

The Eagles increased their lead to as many as eight points during the third quarter, outscoring Hamilton 7-5 during the third stanza.

The Hawkeyes gave Oakridge a scare during the fourth quarter, cutting their deficit to as low as one point, 23-22, with 6:04 left, and 25-24 with 4:30 remaining.

But Oakridge closed out the final four minutes with a 13-6 run, powered by 11 free throws and a bucket from Davis.

Brandy Weaver made two of the key Eagle free throws and Davis nailed one. “We did what we needed to do defensively,” said Hamilton Coach Dan VanHekken, whose team finished with a 17-6 record. “One of the keys was how Oakridge transitioned back on defense after we forced turnovers.”

The Hawkeyes were led by Bria Schrotenboer with nine points.

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