By Derek Brown
Stillwater News Press
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater had a chance to right a wrong Friday night.
The Pioneers fell to Class 5A No. 1 Bishop McGuinness in an earlier meeting this year but took full advantage of the second meeting on Homecoming night. No. 15 Stillwater hit free throws down the stretch that gave the Pioneers a 43-36 win at home.
“You have to be able to make free throws,” Stillwater coach Michael Davis said. “I’m very proud of those young men.”
Senior guard Garrett Christian missed his first five field goals against Bishop McGuinness. But faith was not lost.
“I told him, ‘I believe in you,’” Davis said.
Christian kept shooting and ended the game with a game-high 16 points, including three 3-pointers and four free throws in the final minute of the game.
“Everyone around me was telling me to keep shooting,” Christian said. “I did and they started falling in the second half.”
Davis knew that Christian’s time to emerge was coming. Christian was ready when the bell rang.
“I knew his day would come. The day came. He hit big shots for us,” Davis said about Christian. “Carson played really good defense and rebounded. He did other things than score.”
The Pioneers and the Fighting Irish traded blows in the first three quarters. Stillwater led 29-24 going into the final quarter.
Stillwater did not give up the lead in the final eight minutes.
With a 39-36 Pioneer advantage, Christian was called to the line for two free throws with 11.8 seconds to go. The crowd went silent as the senior swished both attempts to give the Pioneers a 41-36 lead. Christian went back to the line with 3.3 seconds and knocked down both attempts.
“I shoot them every day. I practice them all of the time and I know they are a big part of the game and luckily they all went in,” Christian said.
Brandon Prather chipped in nine points in the win. Carson Teel was allowed just one shot and put in two points.
“We knew that they were going to ride Carson pretty hard and that would open up shots for the rest of us,” Christian said.
Bishop McGuinness’ center Will Lienhard scored just two buckets on 12 shot attempts. Jordan Brown and Jared Dickey guarded Lienhard.
“Jordan and Jared deserve a lot of credit for battling that big guy. I was very proud of them. They made it tough for him,” Davis said.
Stillwater’s offense is accustomed to a fast pace. The Pioneers slowed the game down and dribbled out much of the clock in the low-scoring bout.
“Sometimes you have to win games ugly and you have to win close games to get to where you’re supposed to be. It was a test of character,” Davis said. “I had to stay with what they were giving us.”
The Homecoming crowd was as rowdy as Christian has ever heard.
“It was the best all year. It really helped us. I don’t think they realize how much they help us when we’re on the court. The atmosphere was insane. I really enjoyed it and I think my teammates did too,” Christian said.
Stillwater has had a big week after beating Class 6A No. 6 Edmond Santa Fe on Tuesday and a victory over Class 5A No. 1 Bishop McGuinness on Friday.
“Our philosphy is the next game up. It never changes. We don’t worry about two or three games down the road, we worry about the next game up,” Davis said.
Stillwater and Bishop McGuinness went into the final quarter as a toss-up. Stillwater trailed by five points going into the final eight minutes but pulled together for a rally.
The Lady Pioneers erased the Lady Irish lead in the final quarter to come away with a 51-41 come-from-behind win.
“We just had to slow them down and play our game and it worked out pretty good for us,” Stillwater junior Lauren Stettnisch said.
Stillwater went on a 17-2 run in the final frame which proved to be the difference maker.
“Overall the second half was pretty good for us,” Stillwater coach Clay Stephens said.
Becca Worthy gathered a rebound in the fourth quarter and pushed the ball ahead to a wide-open Dylan Fix in transition. Fix stepped to her spot behind the 3-point line and swished a long-distance shot for a 39-39 tie with 6:01 remaining in the game.
Stephens called a timeout to talk to the Lady Pioneers.
Following the timeout, Stettnisch made a layup to take a 41-39 lead. Stillwater never looked back.
SHS led 44-41 with 1:41 to go when Bishop McGuinness called a timeout.
Stettnisch and the Lady Pioneers closed out the game to deny a Lady Irish win. Stetnisch made a layup and three free throws in the final minute of the game. Fix also made two free throws toward the end.
“We didn’t make all of our free throws but we made some down the stretch that got us the lead,” Stephens said.
Stettnisch led all scorers with a 23-point night.
Fix dropped in 10 points for Stillwater and Alicia Taylor chipped in nine points on three 3-point shots.
Bishop McGuinness’ Torie Shanbour scored 15 and Hattie Msuya dropped in eight points in the loss.
Stillwater has had a tough time with turnovers this year but limited itself to nine and forced 17 against Bishop McGuinness.
“In the second half I thought our defense was pretty good,” Stephens said.
The win shows that if the turnover battle is won, the Lady Pioneers will have a much better chance of coming out on top.
“We’ve been working on it at practice. We executed well (Friday night),” Stettnisch said.
Stillwater is used to getting pressed defensively but on Friday night the Lady Pioneers worked on their full-court press defense in the first half.
“What we’re going to try to do when we’re pressing people is try to stretch the game out a little bit. Maybe we can get some shots without their defense set,” Stephens said.
Stillwater pressured Bishop McGuinness from even beyond the 3-point line. The Lady Irish attempted 24 long-distance shots and put in seven.
“Their main thing is 3-point shooting. In first half they hurt us with that and we changed our defense and they struggled shooting the ball,” Stephens said. “We guarded their 3-point shooters and their offense went stale there.”