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The Ada High girls basketball spent the entire game playing catch-up against fellow 4A powerhouse Mount St. Mary in a semifinal slugfest Friday night at the 2013 Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic.
After a lackluster first half, Ada found itself trailing 22-12.
The Lady Cougars cut a 13-point third quarter deficit to six before Mount St. Mary eventually extended its lead back to double digits heading into the fourth period.
It appeared Ada was all but done after tough post player Kaely Bond scored inside to give the Lady Rockets a 37-26 lead early in the quarter.
However, the Lady Cougars showed great resolve, battling all the way back to force two overtimes before the storybook comeback fell short in an exhausting 52-47 loss to Mount St. Mary.
“I’m so proud of their effort to fight back. We haven’t competed in a lot of big games ... but now we’re showing up in those big games. We just got a late start in this one,” said second-year Ada head coach Christie Jennings. “We competed and fought our way back. I’m proud of them for that.”
Ada’s fourth-quarter comeback started when Meneé Thomsen buried back-to-back 3-pointers — the second one with 6:40 to play — that cut the MSM lead to 37-32 and started what would turn into a regulation-ending 15-4 run.
Aaliyah Blakley got free inside for a bucket with 4:30 left that pulled Ada within 37-34.
Ada (4-2) still trailed by three when Blakley — playing with four fouls — drew a charge, and Sami Jewett followed by hitting her only 3-pointer of the game that knotted the score at 39-39 with 2:02 left.
Bond put the pressure back on Ada when she scored on a tough drive to the basket with 1:12 showing.
However, Blakley’s basket with 10 seconds left tied the score again, this time at 41-all. Bond’s prayer from 35 feet hit off the back iron as time expired.
“The thing I’m most proud of with our group is that when they did hit some shots, we didn’t panic. We found a way to make a few plays down the stretch and got some stops when we needed to,” MSM head coach Rory Hamilton said.
The two teams combined to miss the first five field goals of the first overtime before Olivia Wells hit a layup at the 1:51 mark that gave the Lady Cougars their first lead since midway through the first quarter at 43-41.
Bond would counter for MSM again, hitting two clutch free throws 26 seconds later to tie it at 43 apiece.
Jordan Hagood misfired on a one-and-one attempt with 20.6 seconds left and Ada set up for a final shot, but Jewett’s 3-pointer was off the mark, forcing overtime No. 2.
Bond, a MSM senior, hit a free throw at the 2:21 mark to open the scoring in the second OT and after she made a steal on the other end, Mount St. Mary playmaker Aimee Rischard hit two more charity shots to give her team a 46-43 lead.
Blakley scored again for Ada to trim the MSM lead to 46-45 at the 1:44 mark. However, Rischard hit two more free throws, and steals by Adrienne Berry and Bond on consecutive Lady Cougar possessions all but ended any hopes of another Ada comeback.
Mount St. Mary (8-2) would hit 9-of-10 free throws in the second overtime to secure the hard-fought victory.
Hamilton, who guided the Lady Rockets to a runner-up finish at the Class 4A State Tournament last year, said experience proved to be the difference down the stretch.
“That’s the sign of a veteran ball club that’s been in some close games. We know what it takes to finish it out at the end and hit free throws,” she said. “That’s a credit to their hard work in the gym and to want to take those free throws in those pressure situations.”
Mount St. Mary led 15-8 early in the second quarter before Blakley finally started to get untracked for Ada. She hit back-to-back baskets (her first of the game) to get Ada with 15-12 at the 4:35 mark. Ada then went ice cold before halftime, as the Lady Rockets scored the final seven points of the second period to lead 22-12 at the break.
Blakley would finish with a game-high 20 points — 14 of those coming after halftime.
“They’ve got tremendous balance offensively, so the game plan was to try to pack the paint and contest outside shots. In the first half, we were doing a pretty good job of that ... just taking away their rhythm,” Hamilton said. “When they can hit outside shots and have the Blakley girl inside, they’re really hard to guard.”
Wells had eight points and 10 rebounds, providing a big spark off the bench for Ada. Thomsen also scored eight.
Bond scored 18 points to lead the Lady Rockets while Rischard followed with 13. Berry added nine points and eight rebounds for MSM.
Ada — the No. 7 team in Class 4A — played Cheyenne in the third-place game while Mount St. Mary, No. 3 in 4A, battled Shawnee for the title Saturday night.