By Matt Goisman
When the Oktaha Lady Tigers faced the pressure of a big deficit, they remained calm, worked themselves back into the game and took a lead.
When the Hartshorne Lady Miners faced the pressure of Oktaha’s comeback, they never recovered.
The Lady Tigers used a dominant second quarter to erase a 9-point Hartshorne lead, then dominated the second half to beat the Lady Miners, 73-52, in Wednesday’s semifinal of the Hartshorne Pick & Shovel Classic at Taylor Gymnasium.
Hartshorne’s tournament continues today against Antlers in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. Oktaha plays Wilburton in the championship today at 5:45.
“You have to go through some growing pains when you’re young,” Hartshorne coach Danny Stone said. “We have two kids that have a lot of varsity experience, and the rest of them were freshmen, JV (players) last year. So they’re having to grow up quick.”
Down 23-14 early in the second quarter, Oktaha went on a 19-5 run to swing the momentum back the Lady Tigers’ way. Kelsey Cantwell hit two free throws, then Bailey Campbell sank an offensive rebound to make it 23-18 Hartshorne.
A free throw from Haley Baldridge cut the deficit to 4, then Cantwell found Shea Lynch for a 3-pointer that made it a 1-point game. Hartshorne guard Sam Horne finally ended Oktaha’s run with a layup, but free throws from Garren Yandell and Jaylie Roper kept it a 1-point game, then Yandell grabbed a loose ball and scored, putting Oktaha up 26-25.
“At first, they just were constantly looking for Jaylie,” Oktaha coach Chester Pittman said.
“No sync, no ball-movement. Once they kind of cut loose, our pressure lets us go up and down the floor a little bit.”
Following a Harthsorne turnover, Baldridge sank two free throws. After another Hartshorne turnover, Baldridge connected with Cantwell, who knocked down a jump-shot to make it 30-25 Oktaha.
Turnovers plagued the Lady Miners throughout the game, as their inexperienced guards struggled against Oktaha’s constant pressure.
“We’ve been doing a better job of handling the pressure than what we showed tonight,” Stone said. “But once we settled down, we were able to break it, get the ball down the floor and get into some sets.”
Sarah Stilter drained a layup for Hartshorne to cut Oktaha’s lead back to 3, but Cantwell’s layup pushed it back to 32-27. An Oktaha steal then led to a layup by Baldridge to give Oktaha a 35-28 lead entering halftime.
On a night when Hartshorne tried to shut down Oktaha top-scorer Roper with a box-and-1 defense, Cantwell scored 18 and Baldridge scored 14.
“We did a pretty good job on her early,” Stone said of Roper. “Their outside attack wasn’t hurting us that much. We couldn’t play them man (defense) — too many places where we were mismatched.”
Oktaha maintained its offensive rhythm in the third quarter, outscoring Hartshorne 18-13 and heading into the fourth up 53-41. Shea Lynch hit two free throws and drained a 3-pointer as part of a 7-0 Lady Tigers minirun in the third, but neither team scored more than three baskets a row.
By the fourth quarter, however, Hartshorne had fallen too far behind, and the team’s lack of depth meant the Lady Miners couldn’t hang with Oktaha any longer. Oktaha won the fourth, 20-11, getting 3-pointers from Jordan Austin, Cantwell and Baldridge.
“Nobody probably gave us a chance of playing with them that close for three quarters of the basketball game,” Stone said. “They never quit, and they kept pushing the ball down the floor, kept working hard.”
Horne led the Lady Miners with 17 points. A steal by Danielle Morgan led to a fastbreak layup by Horne that put Hartshorne up 10-9 in the first, and 3-pointers by Horne put Hartshorne up 16-11 in the first and 19-14 in the second.
Back-to-back layups by Morgan made it 23-14 before Oktaha began its comeback.
“Hartshorne did a good job of taking us out of our game early,” Pittman said. “We kind of came around. We have a good bunch of young girls, but they rely on Roper so much that (Hartshorne) did a good job of hurting Roper until they got their legs underneath them.”
With the win, Oktaha improved to 4-0. Hartshorne fell to 2-3.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.