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March 8, 2014

Lady Cougars stop No. 1 Fort Gibson in overtime

Ada — The Ada Lady Cougars rolled into Friday night’s area championship game holding opponents to less than 32 points per game in the playoffs. Fort Gibson was averaging 67 ppg in its impressive playoff run.

When push came to shove for the area championship with a state tournament trip on the line, it was Ada’s defense that prevailed.

The fifth-ranked Lady Cougars upset the top-ranked Lady Tigers 33-30 in an overtime thriller to punch their ticket to this week’s Class 4A State Tournament.

Ada, which will be making its first trip to state since 2006, advanced with a 21-5 record while a stunned Fort Gibson team saw its season-long 26-game winning streak come to a crashing halt.

Fort Gibson had scored at least 50 points in 25 of its first 26 games.

“We came in the game with a mindset of whoever executed their game plan the most would win,” said Ada head coach Christie Jennings moments after leading her Lady Cougars to the state tournament. “Our defense did exactly what we had planned all week. We fought hard for every possession and it paid off. Our defense was as good as I have seen it all year long.”

The game was a low-scoring, defensive battle all night long.

The game plan for Ft Gibson was to pack the lane and force Ada into shooting from beyond the arc.

“We knew going in their plan was to stop Aaliyah (Blakley),” Jennings said. “I told our guards this was their time. We knocked down enough perimeter shots and free throws to get the job done. Our guards found ways to score and we got big minutes from Olivia Wells off the bench.”

Ada held a slim one-point margin at the end of the first quarter, 4-3. Sami Jewett’s 3-pointer and a Wells free throw would be the only scoring Ada could muster in the opening frame, while limiting Fort Gibson to an Allie Glover 3-point shot.

Both teams saw a little more offensive output in the second quarter. Haley Dean and Devanee Simmons would hit key 3-pointers in the frame, while Blakley got her first field goal of the night at the 1:30 mark. Desiree Phipps scored seven points in the quarter for Ft Gibson.

Ada was clinging to a slim 13-12 lead at the half.

Jennings said her halftime speech was simple.

“At this point, the game is not about individual efforts, it’s about one unified team not caring who gets the credit — just getting the job done. That’s the team I coached tonight,” she said.

Fort Gibson would outscore Ada 11-9 in the third quarter. Jewett and Dean again connected on 3-pointers, while Markeisha Black hit two free throws with 30 seconds left in the quarter to cut the Tiger lead to two. Jewett grabbed five of her game-high 10 rebounds in the quarter.

Phipps, Glover and Jayme Hill all connected on 3-point shots for the Lady Tigers in the frame.

Ada outscored Fort Gibson 6-5 in the final quarter to force overtime. Ada held a 28-25 lead with 1:40 to play, but Phipps connected from beyond the arc again to tie the game.

After an Ada turnover at the 1:00 mark, Ada’s defense clamped down, as Fort Gibson held the ball for the last shot with time expiring. The Ada defense pressured the Lady Tigers to burn two timeouts and they still never get a shot off.

In overtime, it was again the defense of Ada that proved to be too much for the No.1-ranked squad.

A field goal by Hill was all Ft Gibson could connect on, and a shot well short of the goal as time expired sent the Ada crowd into a frenzy.

Blakley connected on a drive to the bucket, was fouled, and completed the traditional three-point play after draining the free throw. The sequence proved to be the game winner at the 1:11 mark of the extra period. Black also connected on two free throws in overtime.

Fort Gibson finished 6-of-19 from beyond the arc (31.5%), and 12-of-40 overall (30%) for the game. Ada finished 6-of-17 (35.2%) from long range and 9-of-34 (26.5) overall.

Dean led Ada scorers with seven, while adding two steals, two assists and one rebound. Blakley, Jewett and Simmons all had six points apiece. Black and Wells chipped in four points each.

Jewett, who grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds, added two steals. Wells and Blakley pulled down six and five rebounds, respectively. Meneé Thomsen finished with twp assists and one rebound, but more importantly finished with zero turnovers while playing point guard all night in the win.

Black had another solid performance with three rebounds and two steals. Simmons finished a perfect 2-of-2 from beyond the arc.

Phipps led the Lady Tigers with a game-high 13 points. Jayme Hill scored seven, while sharp-shooting guard Allie Glover was limited to six.

“We are enjoying this one tonight and tomorrow, and we will get back to work on Sunday,” said Jennings. “We are very proud of this win, but we are not satisfied. We know there is more in our tank. We have bigger things to do and better games left in us.”

Class 4A State pairings and venues are expected to be released some time today.

“We know it will be somewhere in the OKC metro area,” said Jennings. “But at this point, it doesn’t matter where or when or who, you have to go compete and focus on what you have to do to get the job done. We have reached one of our goals in getting to the state tournament. Now it's time to move to our next goal.”

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