ADA — Ada’s 63-49 loss to Sand Springs Thursday night in the opening round of the East Central Oklahoma Basketball Classic was the fourth in five games for the young Cougars. 

But this one was different.  After a pair of tough losses to Class 2A power Wewoka and another to 4A heavyweight Broken Bow, the Cougars were dominated Thursday for the first time this season.

Sand Springs — like Ada a winner of only one game (in six tries) while facing tough competition coming into the tournament — held the Cougars to 34 percent shooting, converted seven offensive rebounds into 13 points and manhandled Ada, 39-15, on the boards.

The Sandites (from Class 6A) took the lead for good late in the second quarter and cruised into the semifinals despite committing 22 turnovers to only eight for the Cougars.

“Sand Springs is one of the more well-coached teams I’ve seen — everybody does his job,” first-year Ada coach Scott Lowrance said. “They hit a lot of big shots at big times.

“They played solid fundamental defense, and that kind of team can stop us right now,” Lowrance added.  “We’re so young that we just haven’t learned yet how to change on the fly.”

The loss dropped Ada into a loser’s bracket contest with Choctaw (a team Lowrance coached to a last-second victory over the Cougars in last year’s tournament) at 3 p.m. today, while Sand Springs advanced to a semifinal showdown with Class 5A power Capitol Hill at 9 p.m.  Choctaw trailed Capitol Hill, 32-7, at halftime Thursday en route to a 63-24 loss.

In other boys games Thursday afternoon, Lawton beat the Jenks JV, 80-50, and Idabel edged Shawnee, 55-54 to set up the other semifinal match-up at 6 p.m. today. 

Ada got the first bucket against Sand Springs on Cody Hibbard’s putback of an offensive rebound less than a minute into the game, but the Cougars went more than five minutes without another bucket.  The Sandites, meanwhile, scored 11 straight points — including six from B. J. Noble — over that span, and, after an Ada free throw, took their biggest lead of the first half at 13-3 on Robby Frye’s baseline jumper with 1:35 left in the quarter.

Ada answered with a 15-2 run of its own over the next three minutes to grab an 18-15 lead on Michael Roberts’ layup (off one of Chaz Daniels’ four assists in the game) with 6:39 left in the half.

But Sand Springs came out of a timeout and scored 13 of the final 20 points in the quarter, took a 28-25 halftime lead on Josh Stearns’ 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in the second quarter and never trailed again.

A 3-pointer by Teddy Harbaugh ignited a 7-0 Sand Springs run to start the third period, and, although Hibbard hit a pair of free throws with 6:18 left in the quarter (after a technical foul was assessed to Sand Springs’ David Duncan following his layup to make it 35-25) and Patrick Maloy added a layup 18 seconds later to cut the lead to six, Ada never got closer.

“Our kids got tired,” Lowrance said.  “We got behind early, and they expended a lot of energy catching up.”

One of the few bright spots for the Cougars was the play of 6-2 freshman Colton Richardson, who led Ada in both scoring (15 points) and rebounding (5) in his first varsity start. 

Richardson, starting in place of junior Billy Long (injured in an auto accident in Oklahoma City on Dec. 23 but on the bench in street clothes for Thursday’s game), hit seven of his 13 field goal attempts and scored in every quarter, but the rest of the Cougars managed just 10 baskets in 36 tries, and Richardson, sophomore Steffan Jones and junior Aaron Robinson were consistently outmuscled by Sand Springs’ bruising front line of Frye, Ryan Con and Ben Riggs.

“Colton, Steffan and Aaron did some good things in the post,” Lowrance said.  “But we’re still looking for consistency.  Youth IS inconsistency, and we’re still learning.”

Roberts (14 points) and Hibbard (10 points to go with five steals and three rebounds) joined Richardson in double figures for the Cougars but combined to go just 7-for-23 from the field, and Ada managed just three treys in 17 attempts while Sand Springs was a solid 6-for-15 from beyond the arc.

Duncan, a senior point guard, was the sparkplug for Sand Springs with 12 points (on 5-of-7 shooting), a game-high seven rebounds, four assists and a steal, and six Sandites scored at least five points and five had at least four rebounds.

Noble went 5-for-5 from the field and finished with 12 points and four boards, and Frye had a solid all-around game with 11 points, five assists and four rebounds in the win.