FORT WAYNE – Nothing was destined to come easily this day. So of course there would be one big tease before the payoff.
Ariana Simmons’ bid to end the girls game at the 21st Nancy Rehm/Border Wars Classic in regulation – a one-on-one take to the basket from the top of the key – kissed the glass, trembled on the rim and then fell off. Of course it took five extra minutes before two free throws by Simmons and two more by Taylor Wilson in the last minute of overtime finally sealed the 84-78 Indiana victory over Ohio on Saturday at Saint Francis’ Hutzell Athletic Center.
Nice to win finally one of these, Indiana coach Dave Miller said, fully aware the Ohio girls had won the last three Border Wars Classics and five of the last six.
Not this day.
This day, when Ohio used its significant size advantage to put Indiana down twice by double digits – once in the first half, once in the second – Indiana refused to stay interred.
Led by a revolving cast of characters that included Simmons, the South Side standout who led Indiana with 17 points and was named the game MVP, Indiana erased an 11-point deficit midway through the first half, then dug out of a 10-point hole with 8:24 to play in the second.
Both times, they eventually wore down an Ohio team that featured five 6-footers and three players who went 6-2 or taller. But despite the efforts of 6-foot Emily Ruhe of Lima Bath (a game-high 22 points), 6-3 Kelsey Tiejte of Patrick Henry (17 and 12 rebounds) and guard Kaylee Patton of Waynesfield (12 and 10), Ohio outrebounded Indiana by only one (55-54) and couldn’t put the home team away.
We knew they had big bigs, so we just had to make sure we ran the floor and didn’t get tired, Simmons said.
Yeah, their inside presence, they entered it so many times and got a lot out of that, he said. But I thought we battled and stayed with them. We’d get down five or so and come back, get down five again and come back. So, a lot of heart.
From a lot of places. In addition to Simmons, Indiana got key contributions from Jackie Dixie of Concordia (11 points, 10 rebounds), Aaliyah Gaines of Canterbury (10 points), Keanna Gary of Leo (nine points, six rebounds and a pair of steals) and Haley Richardson of West Noble (nine points, five rebounds, two blocks, two steals).
All of them played a role in wiping out an early 18-7 deficit with a 26-12 Indiana surge across the final 10:32 of the first half.
Then they did it again, falling down 59-49 before regaining the lead at 69-68 on a Gary bucket with 2:40 to play in regulation.
Eventually, it came down to Simmons’ drive after Miranda Palmer tied it at 74 with a pair of free throws with 20.4 seconds showing.
It was designed, Simmons said of the play. It was (to) drive in with about eight seconds and try to get it in, but I think I got fouled toward the end and it rolled off.
In overtime, Dixie’s bucket with 2:15 left gave Indiana the lead for good at 78-76. Ohio managed just two free throws the rest of the way.