For Southmoore, it was personal. When they took on Edmond Memorial in the regional championship, the SaberCats were worried about only one thing. Revenge.
The Bulldogs had beaten the SaberCats in the final game of the regular season and it left a bad taste in their mouths. They planned to wash the taste away with a regional title. However, it just got even more sour after the Bulldogs pulled out a 46-41 victory.
“It hurts,” senior Kayla Tucker said. But we will have games to play. We are not done. We will come back fighting.”
The SaberCats still advance to the area tournament Feb. 28 along with the Bulldogs. Southmoore will face Norman High at 8 p.m. in Choctaw.
However, they are now one loss away from being eliminated from the postseason. They will need a better effort if they are to make it to the state tourney.
“We didn’t show up to play,” Southmoore coach Britney Kannady-Sayes said. “We didn’t show up with the same team we’ve practiced with all week, even. We didn’t execute on offense or defense. We just didn’t have any fire.”
With less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter and trailing by eight points, Tucker hit her only 3-pointer of the day to close gap to five. After Serithia Hawkins came up with a steal, Tucker was fouled going in for layup with 1:37 left. She made 1 of 2 before the ‘Cats Kyra GIlbert forced Jenny Roy into a turnover.
Tucker knocked down a pair of free throws and Southmoore trailed 43-41 with 59 seconds left.
But Memorial didn’t crumble and ran almost 20 seconds off the clock before Roy got an uncontested layup to put the game away.
“I really think it’s our energy and our fire,” Roy said. “No one can bring us down when we are playing together. We have that energy to take it to the next level. When other teams take a break, that’s our time to come and play strong.”
Kaleigh Troxell had a game-high 15 points to lead Memorial. Roy added 12.
Hawkins and Kyeria Hannah each posted 10 points for the SaberCats. Tucker and Cyndi Campbell chipped in with 8.
“I think right now, as individuals, they are putting a lot of pressure on themselves,” Kannady-Sayes said. “They know what they want to do, but they haven’t been in that situation before. So they are kind of antsy, and that’s the way they played today. I think in the fourth quarter, when the game is on the line, I think that is when that pressure really caves in. And for a 14-, 16-year-old kid, it seems like the whole world is crashing in. That’s what they feel like right now.”
After an early burst to start the game, the SaberCats became frazzled on both ends of the floor. The Bulldogs’ defense had a lot to do with it as seemingly every loose ball found its way into Memorial’s hands.
Yet, the ‘Cats led 22-19 at halftime.
Memorial took its first lead of the afternoon when Troxell drained a 3-pointer with 6:50 left in the fourth. After a couple of Southmoore turnovers in a row, the Bulldogs led by five and the ‘Cats were coming apart.
Troxell did a good job of taking Tucker out of the game. She was regulated to deep 3-point attempts that were off the mark.
Hannah kept the ‘Cats close and she was able to knock down a couple of mid-range jumpers and haul in rebounds.
But it was not enough to overcome the Bulldogs relentless efficiency.
“I really don’t think we came into the game as upset as we should have been,” Tucker said. “We live, we learn and we will go onto the next game, hopefully, remembering how this felt.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org