The Oxford girls' basketball team struggled at both ends of the court for three-quarters of Saturday's key Southern Chester County League clash with Unionville.
The fourth quarter was an entirely different story.
Trailing by nine points entering the final frame, the Hornets offense, led by Allison Hostetter and Ashley Palmer, erupted for 25 points in the fourth en route to a 53-48 comeback victory.
"Our experience was the difference in the fourth quarter," Hornets Coach Brian Urig said. "We've had our backs to the wall before and we drew from that experience.
"I'm extremely proud of the fact that the girls realized what the situation was and stepped up," said Urig.
Oxford improved to 6-0 in the SCCL and 12-2 overall, while the Indians dropped to 5-2 in the league and 7-6 overall.
Having led the game late in the first quarter, the Hornets regained the lead late with only 22 seconds left on the clock. Reserve guard, Kiki Gray, stole a cross-court pass and finished at the other end to put her team up 49-48.
Hostetter, who finished with 16 points, went onto hit four consecutive free throws to seal the victory.
"This was a big win," Hostetter said. "Unionville is a great team and they played hard. In the end, we were able to step up."
Palmer, who finished with a game high 20 points, and Hostetter combined to score 20 of the Hornets' 25 fourth quarter points, including 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
"I think Ashley got a little mad in the fourth quarter" Unionville coach Jeffra Gausepohl-Leo said. "And we haven't been in that type of pressure situation this season. Oxford came out harder in the final quarter."
Starting guard Meghan Tait also had a solid game for the Hornets, tallying 13 points.
It appeared the Indians had the game firmly in control after three quarters of play. An aggressive defense combined with an opportunistic offense kept the Hornets off balance. The inside game of forwards Brittany Kessling (nine points), Jen Marthers (team-high 16 points, seven rebounds) and Victoria Schils (nine points) helped the Indians jump out to 20-13 first quarter lead. Both offenses sputtered in the second and third quarters and Unionville led 37-28 after three quarters.
"We just couldn't seem to get going," Urig said. "It was like we were stuck in slow motion. I have to give Unionville credit for how they played."
Palmer made her presence felt with less than three minutes left in the game and Unionville holding a 48-40 lead. The junior reeled off seven consecutive points, including a three-pointer and a lay-up off of a steal to cut the Indians lead to 48-47.
"Palmer's a great player and you can't keep her down for long," Urig said. "She got us going."
Despite the loss, Gausepohl-Leo took some positives away form the game.
"It would have been awesome to come to Oxford and get a win," Gausepohl-Leo said. "But I think we proved a lot by playing them close. I'm proud of my team."
The two teams could meet again in the SCCL championship, but Urig isn't looking that far ahead.
"We don't talk about the future," Urig said. "We focus on getting better with each game."