DUBOIS, Pa. – Back like they never left.
For the second consecutive season, the Otto-Eldred girls are back in the PIAA Class 1A quarterfinals following a 49-37 win over District 6 runner-up Bishop Guilfoyle.
It was another dominant second half for the Lady Terrors, who trailed 17-16 at halftime.
“We’re very much a second-half team,” said Carrie Drummond, who finished with nine points. “We really like to get it going and accelerate.”
Katie Sheeler was once again the offensive catalyst, scoring a game-high 20 points.
Sheeler credited a defensive adjustment the Lady Terrors (25-2) made that helped springboard them in the second half.
“I think the switch to zone definitely helped,” Sheeler said. “They’re pretty fast, and that switch definitely helped take away some of their driving lanes.”
See Drummond and Sheeler’s full postgame interview here:
Drummond’s layup to start the second half gave Otto-Eldred an 18-17 lead, and they never trailed again.
An Anna Merry 3 gave Otto-Eldred a 24-20 advantage with 2:33 to go in the third, and the lead was still just three, 28-25 going to the fourth.
Drummond knocked down a pair of free throws and Merry hit another 3 and Kate Rhinehart had a bucket to start the fourth, and O-E took its first double-digit lead of the game, 39-29 on a Sheeler free throw.
“We play our best ball in the second half and we did that against tonight,” said Otto-Eldred coach Shawn Gray. “We had to make a couple of adjustments offensively. I can’t say enough good things about Bishop Guilfoyle. That’s a young team that plays hard and defends like crazy. We just happen to have some kids that can knock down shots.”
The lead didn’t dip below double figures the rest of the way, as Brooke Close had a bucket and Drummond, Merry, and Sheeler all hit free throws.
“We’re never going to change, we’re going to be us,” Gray said. “Kate Rhinehardt, I can’t say enough good things about her. When Bri (Heller) got in foul trouble, she came in and rebounded and played really good defense.”
The first half was a bit of an offensive struggle. Otto-Eldred trailed 12-8 after the first quarter, with Sheeler scoring all eight early points.
“We can play defense no matter what,” Gray said. “That’s what we hang our hats on, and if we play it well enough and are in the right spots, we’re going to turn people over.”
Bishop Guilfoyle took an early 10-2 lead and had a 15-9 advantage after a Sarah Geishauser free throw with 5:26 to go in the first half.
Otto-Eldred closed the half on a 7-2 spurt, as Drummond hit a layup, Sheeler a 3, and Heller a pair of free throws.
“Carrie’s motor is unbelievable,” Gray said. “Her effort on the glass and defensively is just … I’m glad I’ve got her coming back for a couple more years.”
Merry finished with 11 points, while Heller added five.
Bella Adams had 11 points to lead Guilfoyle, while Geishauser added nine and Alana Lightner seven.
Up next for Otto-Eldred is District 5 champion Berlin Brothersvalley, a 47-35 winner over Aquinas Academy.
And this quarterfinal trip is extra special, with the Otto-Eldred boys joining them in the quarterfinals following their 61-44 win over Serra Catholic.
“I don’t know when the last time you had a school as small as we are with two teams in the quarterfinals,” Gray said. “I’m so happy for Otto-Eldred. It fills my heart, it really does. I love the towns that are in our community and the people that are in our community are absolutely amazing.”
CLASS 2A BOYS
(9-2) OTTO-ELDRED 61, (7-7) SERRA CATHOLIC 44
DUBOIS, Pa. – Happy but not content with their first PIAA playoff win in program history, Otto-Eldred is now among the final eight Class 2A boys’ teams in the state following a 61-44 win over Serra Catholic in the second round.
The Terrors (25-2) broke open a tight game at halftime with a 21-8 third-quarter run.
“We’re not done,” said Otto-Eldred coach Derrick Francis. “It’s exciting and it probably hasn’t hit me yet. They were more athletic but I thought we were really disciplined and the kids worked their tails off.”
Otto-Eldred grinded to a 22-18 halftime lead, never leading by more than six.
In the second half they were able to push the pace, and it paid big dividends.
Shene Thomas, Brax Caldwell, and Manning Splain all hit shots to open the third that gave the Terrors a double-digit lead at 30-19 and Landon Francis’ old-school 3-point play made it 35-21 with 4:01 to go in the third.
O-E held that double-digit lead for the rest of the game.
“We just started to execute better,” Caldwell said.
The Terrors also put the clamps on Serra Catholic (16-12) and talented guard Isaiah Petty.
“We always talk defense first,” said Austin Cousins, who finished with 10 points. “When we’re game-planning, that’s all we work on, how we’re going to defend the opposing team.”
See Caldwell and Cousins’ full postgame interview here:
It’s a defense that held a team that averages 69 points per game 25 points below that.
“We can play defense,” coach Francis said. “I don’t want anyone to ever say all we are is offense. We bust our butt on defense. We’re going to give up a few more points because we play fast. We don’t back down from anybody.”
A Splain bucket gave Otto-Eldred its largest lead of the game, 49-28 with 5:15 to go in the fourth quarter, and Caldwell finished with a flurry, scoring eight points in a two-minute span to close the game.
“That’s a great team we just beat,” coach Francis said. “Any team that’s still left at this point is really good.”
The game was played at a much more deliberate pace in the first half.
Otto-Eldred took a 15-9 lead with 6:11 to go in the second quarter on a bucket from Thomas, but Petty knocked down a pair of shots, Owen Dombroski hit a three and Mekhi Underwood’s jumper gave Serra its first and only lead of the game, 18-17 with 2:20 go in the half.
The Terrors rattled off the final five points on a Max Splain three and a layup from Thomas to beat the buzzer.
Thomas led four Otto-Eldred players in double figures with 16 points, while Francis and Caldwell had 13 each to go along with the 10 from Cousins.
Petty had 14 points for Serra Catholic, while Elijah Ward added 11.
“We’re having tons of fun,” Caldwell said.
It’s on the Final 8 now for the Terrors, who have a date with District 10 champion Erie First Christian on Saturday, March 18 at a site and time to be determined.
“I love every one of them like they’re my own son,” Francis said of his team. “What a special group and what a cool thing.”