ADA — Tulsa Union point guard Destinee Frierson left herself a tough act to follow when she held Cache star Taylor Thompson — the reigning tournament MVP — to 14 points in Friday’s 44-31 semifinal victory at the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic.

But Frierson’s curtain call against Class A No. 1 Preston in Saturday’s championship game was even more impressive than Act One.

A 5-4 speedster who also scored 12 points in the Lady Redskins’ opening-round victory over Coalgate Thursday, Frierson poured in 17 points and gave her team the lead for good with a pair of free throws with 1:29 to play as Union escaped with a physical 60-51 victory and the championship of the 31st edition of Oklahoma’s longest-running and most prestigious girls basketball tournament.

Her big week earned Frierson MVP honors and helped Union (No. 2 in Class 6A) improve to 5-0 heading into the 2008 portion of its schedule. Preston, a consensus No. 1 in Class A, suffered its first loss of the season after nine straight victories.

“A point guard is supposed to be your quarterback, and she certainly fills the bill for us — she doesn’t get rattled,” Union coach Jim Stacy said of Frierson, who had missed her previous four free throws before hitting 3-of-4 in an 89-minute stretch to close the game that saw the Lady Redskins — 4-for-13 from the line to that point — drain 9-for-10 charity shots and hold Preston scoreless. “When it comes down to crunch time, she wants the ball.”

Union led by as many as seven points in the first half and twice after intermission — the last time at 45-38 early in the fourth quarter after a driving layup by Lindsay Palmer, who finished with 15 points, six assists and four rebounds Saturday and joined Frierson on the All-Tournament squad.

But Preston roared back with a 9-2 run and tied the score at 47-all with 4:30 remaining on the fourth 3-pointer of the game by Savannah Hamilton, who scored just 10 points in the Lady Pirates’ first two tournament games combined but earned All-Tournament honors with a 17-point effort Saturday.

Frierson snapped the tie with a drive through traffic for a layup to make it 49-47 but missed the free throw after being fouled on the play to leave it a two-point game. After a pair of free throws by Preston point guard Maylisa Johnson (who was snubbed from the All-Tournament squad despite leading the Lady Pirates in both scoring and assists for the week) tied the game again at the 3:15 mark, Frierson again sliced to the basket for a layup to put Union back in front 51-49 with 2:56 left, but again she missed the free throw after being fouled on the drive.

A floater in the lane by Sierra Cornwell (another All-Tournament selection after she grabbed 19 steals in three games) tied the score for the last time with 1:52 remaining before Frierson, Carrington Fox and Palmer combined for Union's nine free throws (including four straight by Palmer) down the stretch to finally put the Lady Pirates away.

“We were just one possession away — where they would have had to come get us instead of the other way around,” Preston coach Mickey Duncan said. “But it was a great tournament for us. We had challenges in every ballgame, and we needed that, because we hadn’t had too many in first seven games.

“The kids really did respond tonight,” he added. “They didn’t back down. I think this is the first time a Preston team has ever played a 6A school.”

Frierson scored eight points — including a driving go-ahead layup in the final seconds — to lead Union to a 25-23 advantage at the end of a first half in which things pretty much turn upside down for Preston compared to the Lady Pirates’ first two tournament games. 

Johnson, Cornwell and Abbott – Preston’s three leading scorers in the first two rounds of the Mid-America – were held to just three shots (all by Johnson) and seven total points (four by Johnson) before the break, and the Lady Pirates – 3-for-21 from 3-point range Thursday and Friday – hit four treys in the first two periods Saturday, including three from Hamilton.

The Lady Redskins, meanwhile, got first-half scoring from the same players who had led them all week – Frierson (who had two rebounds and two steals to go with her eight points) and Palmer (five points, four assists and a steal).

Union never trailed before intermission, and Frierson scored the final two baskets in a late 6-0 run that sent the Lady Redskins to the second period with a 16-9 lead.

Hamilton’s final 3-pointer of the half pulled Preston to within two (19-17) with 4:30 left in the quarter, and the Lady Pirates finally tied the score for the first time at 23-all on a pair of Abbott free throws with 25.2 seconds remaining before Frierson’s layup sent Union to the locker room with the lead.

Both teams shot the ball well, with Preston finishing 18-for-37 and Union also just under 50 percent at 22-for-45, but the Lady Redskins dominated on the boards, 30-19. Abril Marshall and Breynna Winkler — half of Union’s quartet of six-footers along the front line — combined for 15 points (nine by Winkler) and 12 rebounds, and Fox had five boards to go with three points.

Johnson, who not only led Preston in points (40) but also topped the Lady Pirates in assists (19) and rebounds (19) in their three tournament games, scored 11 of her 16 points Saturday in the second half (after the All-Tournament ballots had been counted) and added five assists and a steal. Other than Hamilton, though, no other Preston player scored more than five points.

This Week's Circulars