OKLAHOMA CITY — Red Oak fell in the Class B title game at Jim Norick Arena Saturday to No. 3 Hammon, 45-34.
The No. 5 Lady Eagles (24-9) had their second runner up finish in the state tournament in the past three seasons, and are still looking for their first gold ball after Saturday’s defeat.
Red Oak found itself in a familiar spot from Friday’s 49-46 win against Varnum. The Lady Eagles trailed the Lady Warriors, 22-20, the identical deficit they had at halftime against the Lady Whippets the night before. Hammon scored the first five points of the second half, and had 30-24 and 32-26 leads before Red Oak tried its hand at a comeback again, with senior Darcie McCullar drawing a foul and sinking both free throws at the 7:20 mark, and fellow senior Jessa Baldwin had a bucket inside that trimmed it down to a 32-30 Hammon lead.
However, McCullar fouled Hammon’s Adysen Wilson at the 4:47 mark in the third quarter for an and-one, and that was essentially the turning point. Wilson made her free throw, and the Lady Warriors closed the game out on a 10-4 run after that.
“That’s kind of when our momentum changed right there,” Red Oak head coach Dan Caldwell said. “I talked to them all day about just staying hooked up for four quarters. We’ve had to play so hard everyday and just not letting that one big moment break. That was a huge play.”
Caldwell called the season an “unbelievable ride” and told the team afterward that they have nothing to be ashamed of. He said they battled all year long and proved people wrong.
The first nine points of the game for the Lady Eagles came off the 3-point shot. However, they only connected once from behind the arc after that. Red Oak was 4-of-16 from 3-point range and 12-of-34 from the field overall.
“I just really think, three days in a row, how hard these girls play, they just played so hard, yield that hard three days in a row, your legs ain’t going to be underneath you, and I think we kind of ran out of gas there late in the game,” Caldwell said.
Red Oak is losing a couple of players to graduation. McCullar had a game-high five assists, and Caldwell praised her as a solid point guard. Baldwin had a game-high 11 points and her seven rebounds tied with Hammon’s Halee Morris for the most in the state championship. Caldwell described Baldwin as a calming force who never loses her composure.
The state championship loss wraps up Caldwell’s first season as the head coach of Red Oak. He commended the work ethic and attitude of the Lady Eagles from day one. Caldwell told Red Oak he believed in them and that they needed to believe in him and what they were doing.
“Any team in the state would love to be where we’re at right now,” he said. “Hammon’s the only one that one-upped us, so just, ‘Keep your head up’ and be proud of the year they had.”
Thursday at Yukon
No. 2 Varnum 55, Granite 50, OT
No. 5 Red Oak 43, Forgan 36
No. 3 Hammon 46, No. 7 Burlington 42
Friday at Jim Norick Arena
No. 5 Red Oak 49, No. 2 Varnum 46
No. 3 Hammon 49, No. 4 Sasakwa 37
Saturday at Jim Norick Arena
No. 3 Hammon 45, No. 5 Red Oak 34