Special to The Sun
The Deer Creek Lady Antlers fought off a late run by the Mustang Lady Broncos on their way to a 49-43 victory in the semifinals of the Bruce Gray Tournament Friday night at Deer Creek High School.
The Lady Antlers got off to a hot start in the first quarter led by Ashley Gibson who turned in seven of Deer Creek’s first 11 points. Five of Gibson’s seven points came from the free throw line, which turned out to be Deer Creek’s bread and butter throughout the night.
Mustang’s offense struggled early with only four points in the first eight minutes. The Lady Antlers started the game with an early press, which forced Mustang into bad shot selection and sloppy turnovers.
The Lady Broncos cleaned up their play in the second quarter, but Deer Creek kept up their scoring as well.
Dakota Vann led the Lady Antlers with seven points in the second period and helped her team go into halftime with a 21-13 lead. Vann hit all three of her buckets after the Broncos jumped out to 6-2 run to start the period. Deer Creek’s defense buckled down late in the quarter as they held Mustang to just three points in the final five minutes before halftime.
The Lady Antlers and Lady Broncos battled for the first two minutes of the third period, but a 12-1 Deer Creek run helped extend the Lady Antlers’ lead to 37-19 going into the final period.
Vann and Gibson led Deer Creek in the third period with 11 of the team’s 16 points. Vann and Gibson each scored 14 points to lead all scorers while Whitney Jones and Bayli Blanchard combined for 17.
The Lady Antlers slowed the pace down after the half and forced Mustang into a sense of urgency. The combination of Mustang’s mistakes and Deer Creek’s scoring ability led to an 18-point Lady Antlers lead after 24 minutes.
The Lady Broncos fought their way back into the game in the fourth quarter and eventually cut Deer Creek’s lead to four with 28 seconds left in the game.
Deer Creek scored eight of their final 12 points from the charity stripe as the Lady Antlers outlasted Mustang’s late comeback and won the game 49-43 to advance to the finals of the Bruce Gray tournament.
“We were 21 of 26 from the free throw line and we did a great job at the end of stepping up and hitting free throws,” Deer Creek coach Totsy Manning said after the game. “We’re typically a good free throw shooting team so we knew if we pulled the ball out and they fouled us, we could hit those shots.”
“There’s a lot of things we can fix for the championship game, but we are still going to play hard,” Manning said. “We kind of have a target on our back. We’ve only won this tournament twice in 19 years and we hope to bring the trophy home tomorrow.”
Deer Creek came into the game 16-2 and ranked third in Class 5A. The Lady Antlers will square off against the Enid Pacers Saturday at 7 p.m. in Edmond for the Bruce Gray Invitational championship.