Brian Johnson Special Correspondent
Bethel Acres — The Class 4A sixth-ranked Ada Lady Cougars avoided pushing the panic button and were rewarded with a championship Wednesday night at Bethel High School’s B.E. Cantrell Fieldhouse.
Ada, behind a tournament most valuable player performance from Aailiyah Blakley, overcame a 13-point second-quarter deficit to knock off host Bethel in pulsating fashion, 63-60, in double overtime of the weather-delayed event, which began in mid-December, but wasn’t completed then due to icy traveling conditions.
“Everybody stuck together and never gave up,” said Lady Cougar Head Coach Christie Jennings.
Blakley finished with a game-high 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor and was 9-of-10 from the line to go with three rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Joining Blakley in double-figure scoring were Olivia Wells, off the bench, with 15 points, five boards and an assist and starter Meneé Thomsen, who tallied 11 points, three boards and three assists. Thomsen was a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor and connected on her only free-throw attempt.
“Blakley had three really strong games in the tournament,” Jennings said. “Every kid who hit the floor for us put in quality minutes. Menee made some big plays and handled the basketball well all night long.”
Blakley and Thomsen were joined on the 10-member all-tournament team by Markeisha Black, who tossed in eight points, snatched four rebounds and had an assist in Wednesday’s title game.
Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field for the game. Ada was 21-of-40, while the Lady Wildcats were 16-of-30. The squads were also efficient from the free-throw stripe as the Lady Cougars were 19-of-22 while Bethel was 22-of-26.
However, the Lady Wildcats maintained the lead most of the game, thanks to the 3-point sharpshooting of Meghan Tade, who fired in 23 points, including five 3-pointers, and was 8-of-9 from the charity line.
Tade was 5-of-10 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from long range. But after going 4-of-5 from the field in the first half, she was only 1-of-5 from the floor, after the break.
Joining Tade in double figures for Bethel was Bry Flanagan with 14, before fouling out, and Mikaya Whitten with 10 to go with three assists.
The Lady Cougars trailed 18-11 after one quarter and saw Bethel quickly push its advantage to 13 off back-to-back 3-point jumpers by Tade to make it 24-11 with 7:24 to go before halftime.
But Ada, after falling behind by 13 again at 26-13, went on a 9-0 run, triggered by Black’s 3-pointer, to get within four and ultimately settle for a six-point deficit, 32-26, at the half.
The Lady Cougars closed the gap to two at the end of the third, behind the scoring of Blakley, who tallied six points in the period, and Wells, who had five, including an old-fashioned 3-point play.
Though Ada trailed nearly the entire fourth quarter. Behind by a 49-46 count, Ada got to within one when Thomsen recorded a steal deep in Lady Wildcat territory and hit a layup with 1:43 left, pulling the Lady Cougars within 49-48.
Bethel hit 1-of-2 free shots with 1:11 remaining, but Ada responded on the other end to tie as Wells scored off a Blakley feed to tie it up at 50 with 48 seconds to go.
Black actually had the opportunity to win it for the Lady Cougars at the end of regulation when she picked the pocket of Bethel, but her hurried layup was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
The Lady Wildcats failed to get a field goal in the final seven-plus minutes of regulation, though they were 9-of-10 from the free-throw line during that stretch
The game was tied three times in the first overtime before the teams were forced to play yet another OT period.
Ada sealed the victory by surrendering just one free shot in their first three possessions of the second overtime. Meanwhile, the Lady Cougars connected on 7-of-8 charity tosses in the final OT period.
The Lady Wildcats had a chance to tie, but were unable to get a shot off as time expired.
Ada, 10-3 on the season, will visit McAlester on Saturday.