By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The Enid girls basketball team was winless in its last two season openers entering its first game of 2012-13 aganst El Reno, and junior forward Abby Lee had never hit a buzzer beater.
On Thursday, both changed.
Lee hit a three as the third quarter ended to pull the Pacers within 35-34 and open an 11-0 run that keyed a 50-45 win at the Mabee Center.
Lee’s momentum-turning three capped a nine-point quarter and came after a sloppy third frame that saw El Reno take its largest lead at four points despite trailing by as many as eight in the first half.
“It felt amazing,” Lee said. “I’ve never done that before. The third quarter’s our best quarter. We always come back.”
“We needed it,” coach Robb Mills said.
Lee’s 14 points led three Pacer scorers in double digits on a night that typical top scorer Courtney Chelf struggled to find her shot. Chelf finished with nine after going scoreless until halfway through the second quarter.
“Courtney’s always been the majority of our scoring, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t falling for her tonight,” Mills said. “I give her a lot of credit for helping our team in other ways.”
“That was really great that my teammates stepped it up,” Chelf said. “That was awesome.”
Chelf did eventually hit the game-winning free throw, giving the Pacers a 46-45 lead with 1:06 remaining. Grace Enmeier hit a short jumper to give Enid a 48-45 lead with 22.6 seconds remaining. Haden Bay scored the team’s last two points as the final horn sounded.
Enmeier and Bay finished with 10 apiece, and freshman Andi Pierce scored seven in her first career start for the Pacers, who next play in the Lady Bulldog Classic in Altºus on Thursday.
“When you get a win in your first game, you’re always happy,” Mills said. “It wasn’t pretty, but take your wins and you’re happy about them.”
El Reno 56, Plainsmen 49
In the first start of his senior year, Jemarcus Jackson, the top returning scorer from last season, looked every bit the part of a team leader to open 2012-13.
Then came the foul trouble.
Jackson and teammate Corell Baker combined to score all of the Plainsmen’s first 10 points Thursday at the Mabee Center, but both, and fellow starter Aaron Austin, were whistled for their second fouls in the first quarter, opening the door for a double-digit lead and a 56-49 El Reno win.
After Jackson, Baker and Austin left the game, the Plainsmen fell behind 28-12 midway through the second quarter, when the oft-whistled Enid starters began to check back in.
“It’s difficult when you get three starters with two fouls early in the first half,” coach Ryan Wilkinson said. “We had to go pretty deep in our bench and it was difficult to get a good flow in our offense. We just weren’t in rhythm.”
“We need to keep our hands up and bodies steady, and take charges,” Jackson said. “We keep just trying to shot-block them. That’s what we need to learn: just keep the hands up and contest the shot.”
The Plainsmen closed the margin in the second half, opening the fourth quarter down 39-33 and coming as close as four points and nearly within one if not for two missed three-point shots in the final frame.
But the foul trouble that plagued Enid early all but finished the Plainsmen late, as both Baker and Jackson fouled out in the late going to stunt the home team rally.“It was sloppy from the get-go,” Jackson said. “Everything just started to fall apart when the foul trouble came. We couldn’t trap like we normally could to get steals, and the more fouls we got, the more free throws they took.”
“We definitely should have won this one,” Baker concluded. “No doubt.”
Jackson finished with 21 points, Darnae Banks had eight, and Baker had six for the Plainsmen, who return to play Thursday at the Tahlequah tournament.