David Reeder

Special to the Grove Sun

SKIATOOK - It had been exactly a week since the Jay girls had taken on and were beaten soundly by Cushing. But what a difference a week makes, as the pugnacious Lady Bulldogs out hustled, out maneuvered and outmuscled the substantially larger Lady Tigers and grabbed a berth to next week's State Tourney. Using what Coach Terry Sweeney called, “A great team effort and some outstanding senior leadership,” the Jay girls proved time after time that they could deliver a metaphorical punch, as well as they could take one. In the opening quarter, Bulldog senior Carrie Kirby took the ball right at Cushing's formidable big girl, Che'Ron Lewis. And for her efforts, Kirby knocked down seven of her team's 13 points, blocked a shot and swiped a pair of steals, all in the first. Shooting 3 of 5 from inside the arc and one of three from beyond it, the Lady Tigers scored 12, to trail by one at the end of the quarter. After the two teams traded buckets and free throws for the next three minutes, Jay's senior shooter, Lauren Wilson, rang up a pair of three-pointers that prompted a Cushing timeout. Down 23-18, the Lady Tigers came out of the timeout intent on one thing…. getting the ball to Lewis. And Lewis did the rest. While banging in 11 of her game high 20 points and hauling down four of her dozen boards, the sturdy post player charged Cushing's 16-6 run to halftime, with the first half buzzer being the only thing that stopped her. The Lady Tigers led 34-29 at the break. Given what they just witnessed and recalling last Saturday's Regional Final in Catoosa, it would have been easy for the Lady Bulldogs to lose heart. But that certainly wasn't the case as Jay returned to the court and delivered one if not two of their best quarters of basketball all season. Playing defense at a breakneck pace and carefully choosing their shots on offense, the 'Black & Gold' defense forced nine Cushing turnovers in the third and allowed only a pair of Lewis buckets to make it into the scorebook. Meanwhile, the Jay offense shot only eight times from the floor and connected on five. Wilson threw in her third trey, to go with another by Laura Whitely and four Megan Ritter points to rally their team to a three point advantage, with only a quarter left to play. With the 41-38 edge, the Lady Bulldogs saved their best for last and never looked back. Wilson added another pair of buckets to go with four of four free throws. And Shalesah Myers added another pair of nails to the Tiger coffin as she came off the bench and threw down two critical three point shots. And while the Jay offense was busy putting together their best quarter of the night, their defense, anchored by some hard work by Talisa Budder and Destini Hogshooter, bedeviled Cushing to the tune of another half dozen miscues. Any hope of a Tiger comeback went by the wayside when they were whistled for an intentional foul that gave the Lady Bulldogs two free throws and possession of the ball. Jay made good on the opportunity, to hold off Cushing by 62-52 final score. Following the game, a beaming Coach Sweeney said, “At halftime we decided we weren't going to get beat in the paint. We let them have the outside and they couldn't do much with it.” Senior Lauren Wilson described her postgame emotions as “incredible,” but went onto confess that, “The past three days traveling have been exhausting.” Fellow senior Carrie Kirby added. “Coach (Sweeney) had us well prepared for this. We stayed with our plan and we're going to the State Tournament because of it.”   Jay 50, Berryhill 42 Just like in the previous day’s action in the 4A Area tournament at Skiatook’s Multi-Purpose Center, things got off to a slow start for both teams. But, in the end the 18-5 Lady Bulldogs had gotten far enough ahead in the first half, to hold off a fairly serious Berryhill Maiden charge in the second. In the early going it appeared that the Jay girls might just fall into a trap that would have them lowering their level of play to that of Berryhill’s struggles. Missing on every first quarter attempt from the floor, the Maidens only got a pair of free throws on the board for all of their early scoring. The Lady Bulldogs weren’t able to put much distance between them and their opponents however, and missed all seven of their two-point attempts and turned the ball over a half dozen times. But what offense Jay did get came in the form of three-pointers by Lauren Wilson and Laura Whitely, in addition to a pair of Carrie Kirby free throws.  Leading 8-2 to commence the second, Jay began to assert their dominance. The Lady Bulldogs attacked the basket with a furor, which resulted in them going to the free throw line 11 times in the frame, connecting on eight of those attempts. Megan Ritter and Talisa Budder scored five and four points, respectively, joining four teammates for a big 19 point quarter.  The Maidens finally hit a shot from the floor when, with 2:35 remaining in the half, Ashley Williams got a layup to fall through the hoop. But Berryhill could muster only seven more, to trail 27-11 at half. What looked to be a potential runaway, at the intermission, took a ninety degree turn with the onset of the second half. Aided by seven Jay turnovers, the Maidens scored 11 unanswered points before the first Lady Bulldog bucket came with just under three minutes to play in the third.  Scoring seven of her game high 13, Williams anchored her team’s offense as they scored 14 in the period. But with a pair of late Carrie Kirby buckets and a Budder trey, Jay eventually put up 10 of their own, to maintain the double digit advantage. With the start of the fourth, the Maidens made another early run at the Bulldogs. Suddenly, on the strength of a couple of three-pointers, Berryhill had cut the lead to just five, forcing Jay to call a full timeout.  Following the timeout, the determined Lady Bulldogs went into a deliberate offense, intent on burning as much clock as possible with 2:09 left to play. The tactic was so successful that the Maidens were forced to foul. And although Jay’s 10 of 16 free throw effort was slightly subpar, it was more than enough to hold off Berryhill, sending Jay to Saturday night’s consolation final against Cushing.   Jay 59, Cascia Hall 50  After falling behind early in the Area elimination game Thursday evening at Skiatook's Multi-Purpose Center, the Jay girls shook off the doldrums of a potentially disastrous first quarter and overcame the hard-nosed Cascia Hall Lady Commandos to stay in the hunt for one of the two coveted State Tournament berths. In the opening stanza, Cascia Hall's Jaime Rahilly and Liesl Spoerl put in five each for most of the Lady Commando's opening 13 points. The sluggish Bulldog offense managed only four of Megan Ritter's game high 14 points and a Laura Whitely bucket for only half a dozen. But the second period clearly belonged to the Jay girls and in particular to Lauren Wilson. The slick shooting senior poured in a pair of treys to go with two free throws scoring eight of her team's second. On defense, Wilson pulled off a couple of steals and hauled in a pair of rebounds as the Lady Bulldogs forced a half dozen Cascia turnovers and won the battle of the boards by a 9-4 margin. And as a result, the Lady Commandos had to pick up a pair of quarter ending buckets to limp into halftime up by three. Jay came out of the gate in a sprint to start the third. With seniors Wilson and Carrie Kirby drawing a lot of attention, snipers Laura Whiteley and Ritter burned up the silk. Both of them scored two buckets and a trey before the start of the pivotal fourth. Ritter's three-pointer came from well beyond the collegiate boundary as the Lady Bulldogs put 20 on the scoreboard. But, again a pair of late frame mental lapses by Jay, in addition to Cascia's converting four of their last five shots from the floor, saw the Commandos clinging to a razor thin 37-36 lead with eight minutes to play. And that was just close enough for the 'Black & Gold' to make their move. Wilson started things off with her fourth three pointer of the night to put her team on top for the remainder of the game. With the lead, the possession arrow on their side and the ball, Jay spread out their offense and convincingly milked the clock. As a result, the Lady Commandos were forced to foul. And the Lady Bulldogs made them pay. Scoring on five of six free throws to go with a bucket, Ritter's seven points led the offensive charge that saw Jay ring up a 23 point fourth. The 'Dog defense took care of the rest by holding a trio of Cascia Hall girls to only 13, to live to play another day, 59-50.   Jay 59, Cascia Hall 50                1st          2nd         3rd         4th        Final JHS        6            10          20          23          59 CH         13          6            18          13          50   Individual Scoring: JHS: Ritter 18, Wilson 16, Whitely 11, Kirby 9, Budder 2, Hogshooter 2, Haggard 1 CH: Rahiley 14, Spoerl 13, Wallace 10, Derr 7, Ward 4, Hart   Jay 50, Berryhill 42   (4A Girls’ Area Elimination)                           1st          2nd         3rd          4th         Final JHS        8            19          10          13          50 BHS       2            9            14          17          42   Individual Scoring: JHS: Kirby 12, Ritter 9, Budder 8, Whiteley 8, Hogshooter 7, Wilson 6 BHS: Williams 13, Hutchings 10, Collins 6, Jennifer Hammock 5, Bales 4, Josie Hammock 2, French 2   Jay 62, Cushing 52 (Girls' 4A Consolation Championship)                1st          2nd        3rd          4th         Final CHS       12          22          4            14          52 JHS        13          16          12          21          62   CHS: Lewis 20, Stanford 13, Jones 8, Harrison 4, Linder 3, Burris 2, Youngman 2 JHS: Wilson 18, Kirby 13, Ritter 10, Myers 7, Whiteley 7, Budder 5, Hogshooter 3