AMBER — The marquee matchup of the evening in Amber did not disappoint.
The hosts and Oklahoma Christian battled away until the final buzzer, with the Lady Eagles edging into the girls’ final on Saturday with a 46-45 win. Taylor Estep’s 16 points – including three baskets made from beyond the arc – led her team to a matchup with top-seed Rush Springs at the weekend and ended Am-Po’s eight-year long stranglehold on the Grady County Tournament girls title.
Both teams started fast. Estep and Darcie Winn traded threes, but the OCA guard hit her second next time down to set the tone. Maddie Mitchell also sank two threes in the first quarter, but the Lady Panthers kept pace. Haley Savage made her trips to the line count, and Ashtin Green put the hosts back on top briefly with two quick buckets. The first came off the glass from a cute angle, and she showed her range to sink a three and put Am-Po up by two.
OCA took a slight lead heading into the second quarter, but they had yet to make a shot inside the perimeter. They made just two in the second quarter overall, and the Lady Panthers doubled them up. Savage got a running jumper from the right corner to fall, giving Am-Po a 17-16 lead with five minutes to halftime. Things slowed down after that, put OCA pulled back to grab a one point advantage by the break.
Savage opened the second half with a three to give the Lady Panthers the lead, but Estep sank her first shot since early in the first quarter to pull OCA back, such was the nature of the back-and-forth game. The Lady Eagles looked to be gaining the advantage midway through the third, after Addison Martin’s close range jumper and Estep went to the charity stripe when she was fouled attempting a long three. Martin finished the night with eight points.
But back came Am-Po. Winn made a habit of driving the baseline, first getting a put back jumper then sinking a layup to finish the night with nine points along with Savage. It left the OCA defense looking very exposed and helped the Lady Panthers to a 33-32 advantage heading into the fourth.
Suzanne Parker, who led Am-Po with 14 points, made one of two free throws to give Am-Po their biggest lead of the night, four points, early in the quarter, but OCA came back strong. An 8-0 run reversed that lead at the midway point, with four from Estep providing the spark. Treadaway did her best to get Am-Po back in it, sinking a put back layup before forcing a steal at the other end.
With a minute and a half left and down by five points, Parker went to work. She first got an offensive rebound to sink a close range jumper before sinking one of two free throws. They still had to foul Wakefield to stop the clock. She sank one of two from the line, putting Am-Po down by three with 13 seconds left. With the three point shot falling just too far, Parker’s put back jumper was all the Lady Panthers could get with the clock running out.