The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

February 18, 2014

Pacers tie record, boys fall

ENID, Okla. — Enid’s leading scorer picked a good time to revert to form.

Andi Pierce scored seven of her nine points in the fourth, and the 6A No. 15 Pacers beat 5A No. 19 Bishop McGuinness 39-35 Tuesday at the Enid Event Center, overcoming a sluggish offensive start and a frightening injury at the finish to extend their win streak to a program record-tying nine games.

The victory was the 50th in Pacers’ head coach Robb Mills’ head-coaching career, the first against Bishop McGuinness for the Pacers in his 11-year tenure as a coach and assistant at Enid, and the team’s final game in their first season playing at the event center.

But all those milestones took a momentary back seat late in the fourth.

With 2:52 left in the fourth and the Pacers up 33-31, junior guard Haven Bay drove into the lane in transition, but was hammered above her neck at the rim, hitting the floor with a wound on her forehead that almost immediately covered her face in blood.

Bay left the game, and Enid was awarded possession after a several-minute delay, but no foul was called on the play.

The Pacers’ lead already was tenuous, Enid surrendering a lead early into the fourth after entering the quarter up 28-24. The Lady Irish scored the first five points of the final frame to lead 29-28. But a three from Pierce, who had been 1-for-12 from the field before the shot, put the Pacers ups 31-29. Grace Enmeier gathered her game-high fifth offensive rebound on a missed free throw by Shelley Mueller and scored to break a 31-31 tie, but Bay’s injury moments later forced the Pacers to recover.

“It didn’t seem to bother us,” Mills said. “I was worried a little bit about that.”

Kylie Vestal hit two free throws to push Enid’s lead to 35-31. After Bishop McGuinness narrowed the score to 35-33 with 1:59 left, Enid chewed the next 1:07, Pierce drawing a foul with 52 seconds left. She hit two free throws to restore the Pacers’ four-point lead, and after Bishop McGuinness’ Maddie Andrews hit two free shots, Pierce answered with another perfect trip to keep the Lady Irish at bay.

“Keep playing,” Pierce said of her early struggles. “You’ve got to keep going. You have to have a short memory.”

“I pulled her off to the side and said, ‘I know you’ve missed some shots, but I need you to keep being aggressive,’” Mills said.

Bay, who tied for team-high honors with nine points and three steals, left the arena under her own power after the game with a bandage on her head and an ice pack on her neck.

The exciting finish followed a first half that was anything but. Savannah Blasi broke a 1-1 tie with 55 seconds left in the first, the first field goal from either team. After a relative flurry in the final minute of the quarter put the score at 5-3 entering the second, both teams’ offensive woes continued into the second quarter, making for a combined 10-of-38 (26 percent) shooting performance in the first half, the Lady Irish’s eight turnovers barely improving on Enid’s nine to lead 16-14.

“You come off a game like this, and in the locker room, it doesn’t feel like a win, but you tell the girls we could be sitting here on the losing end,” Mills said. “We found a way to win. That’s what good teams do, what teams do in the playoffs.”

Enid (17-5) doubled its first-half scoring in the third to lead 28-24. Mills said he didn’t know about the Pacers’ win-streak — which tied nine-game runs from the team’s 1976-77 and ’78-’79 seasons  — until he read it in Tuesday’s Enid News & Eagle, and was unaware of his 50th win until his wife told him, and he deflected credit afterward.

“That’s just having good players,” said Mills, now 50-19 in two-plus seasons.

No Pacers scored in double figures, but all seven girls who played scored. Enmeier finished with six points and a team-best nine rebounds and Blasi also had six points for the Pacers, who play their final regular season game Friday at Lawton Eisenhower.

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