The Edmond Sun
It was a gritty, rasping ball game.
It took blood, sweat and tears for the Class 5A defending state champion Deer Creek Lady Antlers to rip away a semifinal victory over top-seeded Millwood in the Bethany Classic Friday afternoon.
The Lady Falcons used physical play to garner a 20-17 halftime advantage, but the resolute endurance of Deer Creek boosted the Lady Antlers to kick off the latter half on an 8-0 run en route to a convincing 44-31 triumph. The Antlers will tip off Saturday at 7 p.m. in a battle for the top hardware at Bethany High School.
“I told our players (at intermission) we got to step up and play gritty,” Deer Creek head coach Totsy Manning said following the victory. “We’re not going to get beat by a team like this.
“We had three people significantly covered in blood out there and several scratches on faces.”
On the initial possession of the second half, Antler Whitney Jones canned a 3-pointer from the right corner and Deer Creek never trailed again.
Teammate Dakota Vann ensued with a coast-to-coast score, then a free throw by Jones and a turnaround in the lane by Bayli Blanchard capped off the 8-0 start for a 25-20 lead. Jones led all scorers with 17 points, including nine in the opening half with the bulk of it coming on 7-of-8 free throws. For the game, the Lady Antlers shot 18-for-31 from the charity stripe.
“That’s as good of an offensive game as she’s (Jones) played in a long time,” lauded Deer Creek assistant Jonathan Keathly.
Perhaps the best play of the game came via Jones, who took the ball right of the key, dribbled left across the lane through the defense for a strong-willed drive to the glass with a left-handed layup. Jones is right-handed.
“All of that (offense, from Jones & Co.) came from our defense,” Manning said. “I’m super-proud of our kids. Nobody plays as physical as that (Millwood) and gets away with it.
“I’m so proud of them. They were passionate, sportsmanlike and played through it.”
In the third, the Falcons were throwing up wild shots but Deer Creek refused to give up second chances. In the frame, the Lady Antlers forced Millwood into 1-for-14 shooting from the floor.
The final quarter started out well again for Deer Creek, as Vann tallied a hasty bucket and Jones put forth the big left-handed, across-the-lane drive to the goal for a 34-23 cushion.
Shae Scheffler gave the Antlers their largest lead of the game with a pair of free throws with under a minute left to put Deer Creek up by 15 points. Scheffler ensued Jones with nine points and Vann added six.
After Saturday’s title match, Deer Creek will travel to Chickasha.
In Thursday’s opener, the Lady Antlers upended the host Bethany Lady Bronchos 50-45 using a 17-8 second quarter to get on top. Vann led the way with 15 points and Jones chipped in a dozen.
Antlers top Shawnee at home
Lively performances propelled Deer Creek to a 59-51 triumph at home versus Shawnee Tuesday night.
The Antlers led throughout the contest and fended off the Wolves to hang on for the win.
“It was a team effort on defense,” Deer Creek skipper Matt Bailey said after the victory. “We got stops late in the game and made our free throws down the stretch to hold onto the lead.”
On the glass, Antler Caleb Eldridge sucked down a game-high 15 rebounds and shooting-wise junior teammate Will O’Hara fired from long range, knocking down a sizzling 5-of-6 3-pointers for a career-high 15 points.
Deer Creek senior Tyler Haddock led all scorers with 16 points and sophomore guard Elyjah Clark contributed 11.
In the opener, Shawnee jumped out on top early and the Lady Antlers just never got over the hump.
In a frigid-shooting night for both teams in Deer Creek’s new gymnasium, the Lady Wolfpack won a 30-23 contest.
With just two minutes to play in regulation, Vann dropped in a free throw to get within three points, but Deer Creek shot just 6-for-13 from the line and 8-for-34 from the floor and was unable to overtake Shawnee offensively.
The Wolves were not hot by any means, making just 10-of-38 field goals but were 11-for-12 from the charity stripe.
McKenzie Cooper led Shawnee, nailing six free shots to end the game for a seven-point Lady Wolf win. She finished with a game-high 17 points as Shawnee now stands at 6-0.
Deer Creek was led by Vann’s double-double on 11 boards and 13 points. Jones added six points, Emily Gillis three and Abbey Renner one.