Jan. 6—OAKLAND — Points were at a premium in Oakland on Thursday, so much so that Southern and Frankfort combined for just one field goal in the fourth quarter.
In a fitting end to an ugly game, the winning team didn't have a bucket in the final period.
Southern held Frankfort below 20% shooting and made 7 of 9 free throws in the decider to hold on for the 32-25 victory. The triumph marked the Rams' third in four games.
"It wasn't one of the better offensive games we've had, it was a low-scoring game, but we did what we needed to win," Southern head coach Ashley Fadley said.
Frankfort (4-7) has made a habit of holding offenses down over the past three weeks, as the Falcons haven't given up more than 37 points in their last five games. One of those contests includes a 34-29 upset of Allegany at home.
Playing with a shot clock for the first time this season, Frankfort proved its 1-2-2 zone travels. Southern (3-6), meanwhile, proved it's far better than the team that began the year 0-5.
Despite a 9-minute, 21-second scoring drought that spanned parts of the first and second quarters, Frankfort was within 28-25 with 1:42 remaining after Arin Lease split a pair of free throws. Lease finished with nine points and made 7 of 8 from the line.
Southern missed the front end of consecutive one-and-one opportunities at the line; however, Frankfort couldn't make it pay. Maggie Nickel and Carly Wilt drilled a pair of foul shots each in the final minute to ice the game.
"It's totally disappointing," Frankfort head coach Steve Willison said. "It's tough to see us play such good defense and we just can't get the ball in the hole. I can't believe how many lay-ups we missed. In a game like this, you miss two or three lay-ups it's over, and that was the difference."
Southern opened the game on a 10-3 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Nickel and an Ashlyn Leader midrange jumper. Trailing 10-7 after the first period, Frankfort countered the Rams' start with an 11-2 flurry to lead up 14-12 with 5:29 left in the half.
However, the Frankfort run of good play was stunted by its more than nine-minute scoring drought. Southern led 19-14 at the half, and Frankfort didn't score its first points of the second half until a Lynsey Zimmerman steal and score the other way with 4:08 remaining in the third.
Zimmerman was a spark plug for Frankfort on both ends. For stretches of the second half, the speedy guard's transition scoring was the Falcons' only way of putting points on the board.
"Right now she's the best guard we have," Willison said of Zimmerman, who had nine points. "She runs the offense, and when she's not in, we're shaky. ... She's not our best scorer, but she's definitely improved to where she's our best guard."
Both teams managed just six points in the third period, which Southern exited leading 25-20.
From that point forward, Southern wasn't able to hit from the field, but its defense never let up, holding Frankfort to just one field goal in the final eight minutes and converting just enough free throws to secure the win.
"We spend so much time working on our defense, the pressure, being in the right spots on help side," Fadley said. "I know we play a tough man defense. I usually assume that when we play a team that hasn't seen us that year, the team hasn't seen a defense like ours.
"I always tell the girls, 'Go out with as much intensity as you can on defense, and hopefully that creates offense for us.'"
Nickel topped Southern with 10 points, and Emelee Parks and Wilt added nine apiece. The trio had a 3-pointer each.
Frankfort will have a week off to prepare for a home matchup with No. 2 Petersburg (6-3) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Southern will look to continue its winning ways at Bridgeport, West Virginia, on Monday at 7:15 p.m.
"It seems like all season we have three good quarters. One where we can't seem to hit anything, turn the ball over," Fadley said of Southern's keys going forward. "Stringing four quarters together will be huge, and also keeping leads."
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.