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January 13, 2014

Lady Pirates overcome big deficit, post girl

Byng —    If this game had been played at the state tournament they would be calling it "one for the ages."

    As a first-round game at the Byng Tournament, it was merely a war — a great war by two stubborn girls basketball teams.

    Byng, against all odds, finally won this brawl when Alexis Hill found just enough room in heavy traffic to hit a layup with 4.3 seconds left.

    Final score: Byng 35, Dickson 34.

    Byng coach Matt Fike knew his team would be facing a huge challenge trying to stop 6-foot-2 Katy Custer. The Dickson senior, who has already committed to playing her college ball at Oklahoma Baptist University, proved to be even better than advertised.

    Fike figured out early he couldn't let his team sit back in a zone and try to defend Custer in a half-court game. She could score from outside the county, in close and heavy traffic and muscle small people and large who got in her way.

   So the normally deliberate Lady Pirates decided to run.

   Frankly, in the early going, they weren't very good at it.

   By the end of the first period, Dickson led 17-2.

   Before Byng could score again, it was a 21-2 disaster for the home team.

   If a 19-point deficit early in the second period sounds strange, try getting your arms around the fact that Dickson, as a team, would score just 13 points in what remained of the next three quarters.

   As anyone who was there will tell you, the refs “let 'em play.”

   When's the last time you saw a game where the total number of foul shots taken for the two teams totaled seven? That's 7.

   The Lady Pirates hit two of five, and Dickson was one for two at the line.

   Rough?

   Visualize the game's two top players, Custer and Hill, colliding forehead to forehead, knocking each to the floor.

   It looked like the 15th round of "Rocky II," with both performers reeling on the hardwood instead of the canvas.

   If it had been a boys football game, the girls wouldn't have been allowed to play again for two weeks.

   But the two gutsy performers pulled themselves up and went right back at each other. While the two girls were similar in height, Custer had a decisive advantage in muscular build.

   Officially, Custer won the scoring battle 21-16 and Hill won the ball game.

   Her shot at 4.3 seconds had Dickson fans promising each other Hill had traveled, but neither coach was critical of the officiating afterward.

   One of the Dickson parents stopped by the press table to share the following quote: "The refs won this game for Byng." she said, asking to be quoted. OK, her name was Angie Rowe.

    "The officials let the teams play, and it got pretty rough at times," said Dickson coach Todd Vargas. "But our problem was, we let Byng lure us into a running game, and that's just not us."

   Fike shrugged off the criticism by some visiting fans.

   "That's the game," he said. "It's fast and it's physical. I think the officials did a good job."

   Dickson's Kaylee Preston had to leave the game with a bloody nose in the third period after a collision with Shayenne Grove's hand.

   They weren't exchanging high fives, either.

   As for his team's unlikely comeback, Fike admitted, "I've never been involved with one quite like this."

   "What I hope our girls took away from this is how very hard we have to play to win," he said.

   After the dismal opening period for Byng, the Lady Pirates realized they were in the middle of a war and responded aggressively.

    "What got us in trouble early is we didn't go out and rebound," Fike said. "We started out in a zone, but we had to start pressing their guards."

   While Byng never got on an offensive roll, its job of holding Dickson to just 13 points after the the early part of the second period was perhaps even more impressive than Dickson's first period.

   Gradually, the huge lead just melted away amidst all the banging and bumping.

   Byng outscored Dickson 10-4 in the second period to pull to within nine at the half. By the end of the third, Dickson still clung to a one-point lead, 27-26.

   But the momentum had switched dramatically by this point, and Hill gave the Lady Pirates their first lead with a layup at the start of the fourth quarter.

   The stretch run, for such a low-scoring game, was spectacular.

   Custer tied the game with a free throw before Shadley Grove scored from inside to give Byng a 30-28 edge.

   Custer took care of that deficit with a layup with 53 seconds remaining to knot the score at 30-30.

   Byng guard Aysa Tims then hit a clutch 3-pointer, giving her team a three-point lead.

   Custer quickly cut it to a point. Tims was then called for a traveling violation.

   With the Lady Pirates greatly concerned with Custer, Payton Rowe got inside for a layup to put Dickson on top, 34-33, with 20 seconds left.

   Byng then got the clock down to 4.3 seconds before Hill found just enough space to lay in the game-winning shot.

   As you might expect, Dickson got the ball back into No. 55's hand, just in time for Custer's last stand — a  shot that bounced harmlessly to the court.

   The Lady Pirates were scheduled to play Okemah at 7 p.m. Friday in a semi-final game.

   Dickson moved into the consolation bracket with a 3-4 record. Byng is now 6-2.

   Dickson, which hit eight of its first 11 floor shots, finished with a 34.3 shooting percentage from the field.

   The Lady Pirates hit 15 of 49 from the field for 36.1 percent.

 

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