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Otahkians coast, claim victory over Lady Oaks
After losing to Southeast Missouri State University by 41 points last year, the Oakland City Lady Oak did not fall as easily Tuesday night.
But the Otahkians were still able to fairly handily defeat the Division II squad from Indiana 80-66 in front of 340 fans at the Show Me Center.
The Otahkians, taking something of a break from a challenging early-season schedule, improved to 2-1 while the Lady Oak fell to 1-1.
Southeast coach Ed Arnzen was relatively pleased with a first half that saw the Otahkians build a 41-22 lead. But he was not all that enamored with a second half that saw Oakland City pull to within 12 points with more than six minutes remaining, although the Lady Oaks could get no closer.
"I thought we played pretty well in the first half," said Arnzen. "Our defensive effort was excellent. We forced a lot of turnovers and we shot the ball pretty well.
"In the second half, I just think we played to the level of our competition. We let them get back in the ballgame and then we pulled away again."
But Arnzen was quick to give the outmanned but extremely determined Oakland City squad plenty of credit.
"They could have started the bus at halftime and thought about the post-game meal, but they didn't," he said. "They deserve a lot of credit. They played hard the entire way."
Sophomore center Tisa Thomas came off the bench and led the Otahkians in scoring with a career-high 20 points as she never missed a shot. Thomas, whose prior career best had been 15 points as a freshman, went 7-for-7 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. She also pulled down six rebounds.
"Tisa played well and not just her scoring," Arnzen said. "Her defense and rebounding were also good."
Asked if she felt she had played well, a sheepish Thomas said, "I guess I played OK. As long as we win, that's all that matters."
The 6-foot-2 Thomas did say that increased strength has helped elevate her game this season.
"I'm a lot stronger thanks to our excellent strength coach," said Thomas, praising the school's first-year strength coach, Paul Helsel. "I think that is helping me a lot."
Christine Rathke added 14 points to go along with six assists and three steals. Lori Chase had 12 points and seven rebounds, Tiffany Melis recorded five assists and LaShelle Porter came up with five steals.
Arnzen was pleased that all 12 of his players reached the scoring column.
"That's good to see," he said. "In a game like this, it's nice that everybody got to play quite a bit because you don't get the opportunity to do that very often."
Erin Evans led four Oakland City players in double figures with 18 points. Shannon Bree scored 15, Katie Miller had 13 and Lori McCracken added 10.
The Otahkians will return to action Saturday night when Southern Illinois visits the Show Me Center.