The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 8, 2014

PC-Hunter girls take Class A title

By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

OKLAHOMA CITY —  Pond Creek-Hunter girls head coach Tasha Diesselhorst had to take a second look to be sure.

Senior Rylie Halcomb had just deflected a final full-court lob to drain the last two-tenths of a second from the Class A girls state championship, and the scoreboard, the final buzzer and the delirious PC-Hunter-loyal section to the west all said the Lady Panthers had just beat Seiling 32-30 for their first ever state title. But Diesselhorst still had to make sure the State Fair Arena’s video screen didn’t change its mind.

“It just felt unreal,” Diesselhorst said. “It felt unreal. I just stood there. We’re blessed. I can’t believe it.”

It would’ve been hard to.

Jade Jones, Pond Creek-Hunter’s most dangerous offensive player for the state tournament, the season and most of her high school career, couldn’t find a rhythm, and the Lady Panthers were held to three points in the fourth quarter. But there was that 32-30 score, sophomore Tiarra Davis hitting a pair of free throws with 38.9 seconds left, and Halcomb — the sometimes-forgotten senior alongside fellow class-of-2014 member Jones — scoring 10 of her team-high 13 in the second half to get it there.

“I’ve never felt anything like this in my life,’’ said Halcomb, who contested and rebounded a Kaci Livingston miss that would have put Seiling even at 32 just before the buzzer. “I’m so lucky to … I don’t even have words for what I’m feeling right now.”

The last sequence followed a quarter-long effort to keep Seiling’s fourth-quarter rally from ever getting started. Halcomb and Livingston traded threes in the final six seconds of the third quarter to keep the Lady Cats within 29-23, and Pond Creek-Hunter planned to keep the ball out of Seiling’s hands to make sure it stayed that way.

Kylie Templin rebounded a Livingston miss and hit two free throws after drawing a foul on her putback attempt to cut Pond Creek-Hunter’s lead to 29-25 early in the fourth, and the Lady Panthers answered with a nearly three-minute possession, Jones and Davis dribbling through and around Seiling’s defense, but not all the way to the basket. PC-H drew three fouls during the possession, but couldn’t score at the end of it, with Jones missing a runner with 3:59 left.

“We knew going into the game that we couldn’t be behind in the fourth quarter,” said Seiling head coach Brady Hamar. “We had to be ahead. We knew that’s what they would do. If we were ahead, we would have done the same thing.”

The strategy nearly backfired on the Lady Panthers. Morgan Marks, Seiling’s leading scorer with 10 points, followed Jones’ miss with a three from the left wing to pull within 29-28, and after Halcomb split two free throws to cap another long possession, Templin scored on an up-and-under to even the score at 30 with a minute left.

Davis was triple-teamed near half-court on the ensuing possession, but was fouled to set up her game-winning free throws.

“I knew they were huge,” said Davis, who had a game-high seven rebounds. “But I don’t think about it. It doesn’t do us any good.”

Kelsie Pethoud passed to Livingston in the final seconds, but Livingston was doubled by Halcomb behind and Bria Taylor in front, and Halcomb was knocked to the floor after rebounding Livingston’s miss with 0.9 seconds left. Halcomb missed the front end of her trip to the line, and the Lady Panthers were whistled for a foul on the rebound setting up Seiling’s last chance under its own basket.

“We told them, 0.2 (seconds left), it had to be a tip,” Diesselhorst said. “When that ball’s in the air, it’s a loose ball. Everybody go get the ball.”

Jones finished with eight points on 4-for-13 shooting, struggling against a defense focused mostly on her after flourishing under the same circumstances in the rest of the tournament, dropping team highs of 20 and 30 points against Caddo and Cheyenne-Reydon to lead PC-Hunter to the championship game. Davis and Halcomb, the Lady Panthers’ No. 2 and No. 3 scorers, took turns picking up the scoring slack. Davis scored seven of her nine in the first quarter, and Halcomb had nine in the third, hitting three of four attempts from three.

“I love it,” said Jones, who still contributed three rebounds and a team-high four assists. “Props to Seiling. They knew where I was, they guarded me. I got open shots, I just couldn’t make them, but Rylie and Tiarra stepped up huge. Everybody stepped up huge.”

Neither team could take advantage of an often sloppy first half. Seiling (23-6) missed six of seven shots after hitting a three on its first possession, going without a second-quarter field goal until 3:35 before halftime, but PC-Hunter (28-1) opened the second with turnovers on its first three possessions. Seiling shot 27 percent in the first two quarters; PC-H had eight giveaways, taking a 14-12 lead on Jones’ runner with three seconds before intermission.

Templin finished with nine points, and Taylor Hedrick added five points and a game-best five assists for Seiling, a surprise entry in the championship after entering the state tournament with the fewest wins (21) and most losses (5), advancing to the title with a semifinal upset over fourth-ranked Frontier.

“The girls have had March 8 written on their board since October,” Hamar said. “That was their goal, that we were gonna be playing on March 8. We got to that point, we just fell a couple points short.”

Seiling was going for its first state championship since 1994.