Special to The Sun
The defending state Class 5A champion Deer Creek Lady Antlers jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter but fell victim to the hot-shooting Lady Panthers of Harrah in a 56-42 loss in the championship game of the Bethany Invitational Tournament Saturday night.
Senior Bayli Blanchard, who led Deer Creek with 13 points, sank two field goals to go with a three-point play from junior standout Dakota Vann and a field goal from Whitney Jones and free throw by Abbey Renner to race to a 9-1 advantage midway through the first quarter.
But the Lady Panthers then mounted a 27-6 burst that carried into halftime with Harrah on top by a 28-15 advantage. After scoring just three points from a 13-13 tie at the end of the first period, the Antlers were never able to get any closer than nine the rest of the way.
After a thrilling 44-31 thrashing of defending tourney champs and No. 1-ranked 2A power Millwood in the semifinals on the heels of an impressive 50-45 victory over Bethany in first-round action, the Deer Creek ladies could not overcome early foul trouble and never found their offensive rhythm. The win over Millwood also avenged a loss to the Lady Falcons in the finals of the Bethany Tournament a year ago. Both Jones and Vann were whistled for two fouls in the first period and spent huge chunks of time on the bench as the Lady Panthers slowly pulled away. Both eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter, killing any hopes of a Deer Creek comeback.
With their starters back on the court, the Lady Antlers staged a rally in the third period as Blanchard hit back-to-back buckets to narrow the gap to nine and following a 3 by Harrah’s Darian Hill, Jones tallied an answer from the lane.
Five-foot-four junior sparkplug Shea Scheffler connected for a 3-pointer and Blanchard connected on a layup and foul shot with 1:06 left to slice the margin to 12 going into the final quarter. Scheffler continued her hot streak into the fourth quarter hitting a trey, a field goal and two free throws to give her 10 for the game. Vann had a field goal and two free throws and Jones connected on a pair of free throws before both fouled out. Vann, who had 21 in the first two games, finished with eight and Jones, who tallied 17 in the big win over Millwood, finished with seven.
However, when the Lady Antlers had to resort to fouling to stop the clock, Harrah took full advantage as sophomore standout Shanna Visnieski was a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Antlers return to action Tuesday, with a trip to Chickasha before returning home Friday night to celebrate Homecoming activities with Western Heights as the opponent.