If the Ada High girls basketball team had been playing baseball Monday night against Class 5A No. 1 Shawnee, a gut-wrenching 33-29 loss could have been blamed on the closer.
The Lady Cougars led 27-22 after Aaliyah Blakley banked home a 13-footer, was fouled and converted the three-point play at the halfway point of the fourth quarter. But during a crucial stretch in the final minutes, Ada turned the ball over on four straight possessions that helped the high-powered Lady Wolves rally for the victory and put a damper on Senior Night inside the Cougar Activity Center.
Shawnee stayed unbeaten at 21-0 on the year, while Ada (No. 5 in Class 4A) fell to 17-5.
“I hate to even make this statement because we were playing the No. 1 team in 5A, but I didn’t think we played very well at all in the fourth quarter,” said Ada head coach Christie Jennings. “That’s not taking anything away from them. They have a great basketball team, and they know how to finish games.”
Jennings said the loss was similar to a 47-41 setback to Shawnee in a Dec. 16 road game.
“It was almost a mirror image of what happened in Shawnee. We have to handle the basketball and learn to finish those situations,” she said.
Ada committed seven of its 19 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“We just lost our heads late. Every one of us. We played really well defensively, and that kept us in the game,” she said.
Shawnee standout McKenzie Cooper followed Blakley’s three-point play with one of her own at the 3:35 mark that trimmed the Ada lead to 27-25.
Blakley followed with a putback after an offensive rebound just 11 seconds later. She again was fouled on the shot but missed the free throw, leaving Ada on top 29-25 with 3:24 left. The Lady Cougars wouldn’t score again.
Bailey Taylor, who had a big night with 16 points and seven rebounds, scored after an Ada turnover to trim the Shawnee deficit to 29-27.
After another Ada turnover, Taylor picked up a loose ball and drove to the basket for a layup that tied the game at 29-29 with 2:10 remaining in the contest.
The Lady Cougars gave the ball back again, and Shawnee head coach Wendi Wells decided to start running some time off the clock with the game tied. The Lady Wolves would call time out with 50 seconds remaining.
Taylor drew a foul and hit two big free throws with :38 showing to give Shawnee a 31-29 edge.
Kelsey Simmons then stole the ball for the visitors. The Lady Wolves then played keep-away until Ada finally fouled Shaiann Tramble, who went to the free-throw line with 6.5 ticks left. She missed the free throw, but teammate Monique Tramble grabbed the offensive rebound, ending any chance of an Ada comeback.
Cooper ended the scoring with two more free throws with just 1.5 left in the game. She would finish with 13 points, including a 6-for-7 showing from the free-throw line.
“That’s just all a learning process,” Jennings said of the bad Ada ending. “I just keep telling myself this was a glorified practice, and we’re getting ready for Saturday night and the games that really matter.”
Ada is scheduled to host McLoud at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in a Class 4A District championship game.
The Lady Cougars had one of the best defensive stretches of their entire season midway through the contest. After going without a field goal throughout the entire second quarter, the Lady Wolves went on to miss 14 consecutive shots. But the biggest lead Ada could manage during Shawnee's dry spell was an 18-14 advantage after a Blakley basket at the five-minute mark of the third period.
Taylor ended her team’s long drought in impressive fashion, launching a 24-foot 3-point shot that found nothing but net and tied the game at 18-18 at the 3:26 mark of the third quarter. On Shawnee’s next possession, Cooper hit a corner 3-pointer to give the Lady Wolves a short-lived lead.
Blakley would answer with an old-fashioned three-point play with just under a minute left to send the game into the fourth period knotted 21-21. Blakley would finish with game highs of 18 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Olivia Wells was next with five points and seven rebounds.
Besides Taylor and Cooper, only one other Shawnee player scored — a four-point outing by Monique Tramble.
Ada will now turn its focus to a McLoud team that the Lady Cougars defeated 35-25 in December at a tournament in Bethel.
“We’ve played McLoud before, so I feel pretty good about that,” Jennings said.
A win over the Lady Redskins on Saturday would set up a 4A Regional meeting with the Bethel-Checotah winner in Checotah. The regional hosts are coached by former Vanoss girls coach Kim Lewis.
“If it goes like it’s drawn out to go, we should play (No. 14) Victory Christian in the regional finals,” Jennings said. “They have two really good players. It’s not an easy road, but I definitely think if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we come out and win that regional.”
Waiting on the other side of the bracket for a possible area tournament showdown will likely be No. 1 Ft. Gibson.
“I’ve been reminding my kids that two teams come out of an area and go to the state tournament. Win or lose, we have to figure out how to do that,” she said.