The Ada News
Ashley Hughes had 10 points, five boards and three steals and the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs held on for a 45-43 victory over the Salina Lady Wildcats Thursday night in the Class 3A State Tournament Quarterfinals at Yukon Thursday night.
Sulphur, playing in its first state tournament, led for most of the game, but barely escaped in the final seconds. The Lady Bulldogs (26-1) hit only two of 11 free throws in the second half, missing four of six in the last 32 seconds of the game that kept the Lady Wildcats close. Only after a miss by Courtney Backward and a rebound by Sulphur’s Ashley Hughes with three seconds left were the Lady Bulldogs able to breathe a sigh of relief.
“One thing I was really proud of was our defense,” Sulphur head coach Toby Todd said. “They (Salina) have three girls that can really score and fill it up. I’m really excited about the defensive end. Obviously the way things went down the stretch kinda leaves a foul taste in your mouth but it leaves us something we can focus on.”
Sulphur pulled out to a 21-11 lead early in the second quarter behind a balanced scoring attack. Salina Johnson had six points, Tierani Richardson added seven and all five starters had put points on the board. The Lady Bulldogs still held a 27-20 lead at halftime.
Bailee Eldred hit a trey at the 6:10 mark of the third quarter for a 32-23 Sulphur lead and then Salina went to work.
Reesa Cowan and Kayla Morgan hit a pair of three-pointers and Backward added a conventional three-point play during an 11-0 run that put the Lady Wildcats in front 34-32 with 1:46 left in the third quarter. Ebony Harrison and Hughes hit buckets to put Sulphur back in front 36-34 entering the final quarter of play.
The game was tied at 38 before Darsha Reagle hit a trey and Hughes added a basket to put Sulphur in front 43-38 with 2:10 left. Backward hit a trey with 1:01 left to pull the Lady Wildcats within 43-41. Harrison hit one of two free throws for a 44-41 lead with 32 seconds left and Cowan hit a bucket to get Salina within 44-43 with 11 seconds to play.
After two missed free throws by Richardson with 10 seconds lef, Backward — who finished with a game-high 16 points in defeat — got a chance to give Salina the lead, but her baseline jumper from 11 feet away bounced off the side of the backboard. Hughes rebounded and hit a free throw with 1.3 ticks left to secure the victory for the Lady Bulldogs.
Sulphur will face Prague (26-1) Friday night 6 p.m. at Yukon. Prague has some history in the state tournament as this will be their 15th appearance and third in a row. “They’ve been here the past couple of years,” Todd said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve played tough all year long and I know our girls will show up tomorrow and give it everything they’ve got.”
Salina finished 17 of 42 from the field while Sulphur hit 17 of 39.