Jeff Cali Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Ada post player Aaliyah Blakley had a rough shooting night against Cheyenne in Saturday’s 2013 Mid-America Classic third-place game.
But after the Lady Cougars had blown numerous opportunities to win the game in regulation, Blakley drained an 18-foot jumper at the 2:12 mark in overtime that gave her team a four-point lead and helped Ada turn back the Lady Bears 43-35 before a large crowd inside ECU’s Kerr Activities Center.
The Lady Cougars, No. 7 in Class 4A, improved to 5-2 on the young season while Class A No. 1 Cheyenne dropped back-to-back Mid-America contests to fall to 12-2.
Leading 31-29, Ada missed five free throws in the final 1:14 of the fourth. Cheyenne finally took advantage when Kate Sander drained a shot from the left elbow as time expired to tie the game at 31-all and force overtime.
The two teams were sluggish throughout, and it was clear the game turned into a matter of the survival of the fittest down the stretch.
“I think it was two really good teams that were really tired,” said Ada head coach Christie Jennings. “We started out pretty good, and then I think it kind of went downhill. Our bad decision-making had a lot to do with us being tired.”
Ada and Cheyenne both finished with 19 turnovers apiece.
“I think the same thing about them. We just had two tired teams that had fought their tails off for two days and had to fight to the finish to get this one done,” Jennings said. “It was not the prettiest game I’ve ever coached, but it was a win. We get to take that third-place trophy home, and we feel very blessed and fortunate about that.”
Haley Dean — who didn’t attempt a shot of any kind during regulation after scoring 17 points in a first-round win over Lomega — hit two free throws to start the overtime period. Blakley followed with her clutch jumper to put Ada on top 35-31.
Markeisha Black hit one free throw at the 2:00 mark and another with 1:19 left to push the Ada lead to 37-31 before Sander finally broke the ice for the Lady Bears with a basket inside that made it 37-33.
After an Ada turnover, Cheyenne lost the ball after a mad scramble that ended up with Black shaken up and forced to the bench. Olivia Wells later hit two free throws with 41 seconds left that gave Ada a 39-33 lead.
After two free shots by Sander, who led her team with 10 points, Dean hit two more charity shots of her own to make it 41-35 with 21.1 seconds left.
Blakley would cap off a 17-point, 19-rebound night with two more free throws. The Lady Cougars were 10-of-20 from the free-throw line during regulation but sank 10-of-12 in the four-minute overtime period.
“We knew this game was going to be a battle. It was going to be whoever could claw and fight their way out of it. I’m just really proud that they did that,” Jennings said. “For us to find a way to finish — being hurt and playing crazy at times — I couldn’t be any more pleased. This group of girls hasn’t played in a lot of games that are big and that are close in front of the whole town of Ada. They kind of panicked ... but they’re getting better. Hopefully by the time the playoffs roll around, this experience will help us.”
Ada scored the first five points of the second quarter — three free throws by Blakley, including one after Cheyenne coach Brad Thrash was called for a technical foul — and two more free shots by Meneé Thomsen that gave Ada a 15-9 advantage. The Lady Cougars would keep the Lady Bears at arm’s length for the remainder of the first half and after Blakley rebounded a missed free throw by Sami Jewett, she scored with 51 seconds left to give the hometown team a 20-14 lead at the break.
The Lady Cougars still led by six at 27-21 heading into the fourth quarter, but Cheyenne got baskets by Sander, Monti Sappenfield and Taylor Swisher for a mini 6-0 run that tied the contest at 27-all and set up the exciting finish.
Black and Wells contributed eight points apiece for the Lady Cougars, who shot just 25 percent from the field. Ada owned a 48-34 rebounding edge.
Sander had nine rebounds to go with her point total, but no other Cheyenne player scored more than six.