SOUTH WHITLEY — The Whitko girls hoops team has been unable to defeat Rochester since the current batch of seniors were in eighth grade.
In fact, aside from a two-point loss in 2005, the Lady Wildcats haven’t managed to keep the Lady Zebra’s margin of victory within single digits since the millennium began.
That changed Saturday night, as Whitko hosted — and defeated — Rochester, 51-48, in a close game that was within one point with under a minute left in the contest.
There was little scoring in the first three minutes until Karissa Olinske stole the ball and scored to tie the teams at four apiece. Olinske scored again and following a 3-point jumper from Katie Reiff, Olinske hit a shot at the buzzer, giving the Lady Wildcats a 13-10 lead to end the opening stanza.
After tying the game, Breanne Paulik scored to give the Lady Zebras the lead; the fourth of six lead changes in the first half.
Whitko’s Cassie Jones hit two from the free throw line with a second left to help the team head into the locker room at halftime with a 29-25 lead.
Rochester started 0-for-7 and the Lady Wildcats began 0-for-4 in the second half before Olinske scored from beyond the arc for three of her team-high 14 points with just over five minutes remaining in the quarter.
Three minutes later, Josie Sparks converted a traditional three-point play and followed it up with another inside bucket to give Whitko its largest lead of the game, 40-33. The third ended with the score 40-35.
“At the end of the game, they had an answer for just about everything we did,” Rochester Coach Stesiak said.
Down just one with 12 seconds left in regulation, Rochester was forced to foul, putting Craig on the line for two successful foul shots to seal the game, which ended at 51-48.
Whitko travels to Norwell Thursday for non-conference play, followed by hosting Three Rivers Conference foe Southwood Saturday.