Lady Eagles take rematch
Columbia City point guard Sarah Opliger drives through a foul from Whitkoâ€™s Katee Reiff (23) during the first quarter of the Lady Eagles sectional win Wednesday night. Opliger picked up four steal in the quarter as City jumped out to a big lead early on the Lady Wildcats 15-2. Seniors Nicole Slaymaker, left, and Rachelle Kessie, in back, also joined the defensive attack. Post & Mail photo / Andrew Shultz
COLUMBIA CITY — The postseason got underway for Whitley County girls’ basketball teams Wednesday night with a rivalry rematch at the class 3A Columbia City sectional.
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A hot and cold night from the field, Columbia City got the better side of the shooting beating rival Whitko for the fourth consecutive time, 63-44. That leaves the Lady Eagles in a semifinal rematch from a season ago against two-time defending sectional champion NorthWood Friday night.
A first quarter offensive blitz had Columbia City’s game plan working with an early 15-2 lead.
“We got the start we wanted,” Columbia City head coach Amy Shearer said. “We came out strong. We got some good buckets and I thought our defense was really good. We had a game plan and the kids executed it.”
The Lady Eagles used 22-for-36 (61 percent) shooting to jump on top of Whitko quickly.
Along with hitting buckets on its first three possessions, Columbia City converted Whitko turnovers into points. Junior Sarah Opliger pulled in four steals in the first quarter including two strips that led to the Lady Eagles first two buckets.
“You want to come out and get a good start but we got down a few baskets and we couldn’t settle our nerves,” Whitko head coach Rob Bell said. “By them (Columbia City) taking that quick lead, we kind of let the pressure of the moment get to us a little bit.”
The Lady Eagles took the high end of a physical game of hard fouls and loose balls. Columbia City led 17-6 after Whitko finished 2-of-14 in the first quarter.
The Lady Wildcats went with full court pressure throughout the rest of the game, attempting to keep Columbia City out of a set offense.
Early in the second quarter it worked for Whitko. Leading scorer Karissa Olinske helped the Wildcats cut the lead to as little as six points with three consecutive steals.
Olinske put up eight of her 21 points in the second quarter as Whitko cut the lead to 19-13 with six minutes left to go in the half.
Columbia City (12-9) managed to fight off the awakening of the Whitko offense.
For the second consecutive game, Sierra Burlage scored 21 points to lead the Lady Eagles. Burlage put up nine points in the second quarter to help City build its lead back to double figures 33-20 at halftime.
“We knew who we had to stop on their team,” Shearer noted. “(Micaela) Sylvester, (Rachelle) Kessie and Olinske are their go-to kids.”
Whitko (9-11) suffered a big setback in its hopes of a rally. Just 30 seconds into the half, starting point guard Micaela Sylvester went out for the game with a knee injury.
Columbia City scored 14 points or more in each quarter never being outscored.
“Columbia City stepped up and took advantage of what was being given to them,” Bell said. “They hit the gaps. We left holes in the defense and they cut kids in there. When they got them in there they hit the shots. That’s the difference in the game.”
Whitko was unable to get closer than nine points in the second half finishing 11-of-43 from the field.