By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
EDMOND, Okla. —
For the second time this season, the Enid Pacers had to settle for runner-up at a tournament, losing Saturday 42-33, despite 23 points from Courtney Chelf, to the host Deer Creek Edmond Lady Antlers in the girls championship game of the Bruce Gray Invitational.
It also was the second time Enid has lost to the host school in the title game, with their previous runner-up finish coming Jan. 12 in a 68-66 loss to host Muskogee in the finals of the Shrine Classic.
“It was a tough night,” said Enid head coach Robb Mills. “We wanted this one pretty bad.”
The contest was a defensive, low-scoring affair Saturday from the beginning.
After falling behind 7-0 to start the game, Enid rallied to pull within one point at 17-16 at halftime and then took the lead for the first time early in the third period. The Pacers extended their lead to as many as six points with a 7-2 run that had them up 25-19 midway through the third period.
However, the Pacers could not hold the lead as Deer Creek, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, went on an 11-2 run of its own and took the lead back at 28-27 with 5:34 remaining and never trailed again, sealing the victory at the foul line.
Free throws played a prominent role in the tightly called game as the teams combined for more points from the free throw line than from the field.
“Shots weren’t falling for some girls that normally do,” Mills said. “Both teams played defense very well tonight.”
Chelf had 12 first-half points, which included going 10-for-11 from the stripe. Enid scored only two buckets in the first half, one by Chelf and the other by Shelley Mueller.
“I was very happy with Courtney’s play tonight and her free throw shooting,” said Mills.
The parade to the foul line continued in the second half, but this time it was Deer Creek taking advantage, particulary Ashley Gibson, whose team-high 16 points, included 12 free throws, 10 in the fourth quarter.
“There were a couple of calls that could have gone either way late, I thought,” said Mills. “They (the officials) called it tight all night for both teams. We had them in foul trouble in the first half, but they got us in foul trouble in the second half.”
With Enid forced to foul down the stretch, the Lady Antlers, who were 24 of 28 from the free throw line for the game, put the game away. The win upped Deer Creek’s record to 18-2.
The Pacers were 16 of 20 from the charity stripe with Chelf being nearly the entire Enid offense, finishing with a game-high 23 points (including going 14 of 16 from the foul line), while no other Pacers player had more than 2 points in the contest. Enid now is 13-3 on the season. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the ninth-ranked Pacers.
Chelf and Haven Bay were named to the all-tournament team.
Despite the loss, Mills said he was pleased with his team heading down the stretch. “We’re in a good place,” he said. “We’ll be all right. That’s a pretty good team we played on their home court, but I feel pretty good about our team too.”
Mills also was pleased to see Pacers fans travel to Edmond for the championship contest.
“I was really happy to see the number of people from our community who came out to support us tonight,” Mills said. “We really appreciated that.”
Enid returns home Tuesday to face Woodward at the Mabee Center.
Plainsmen rally for victory
The Enid Plainsmen overcame a cold start in posting a convincing 64-48 win over Yukon Saturday in the seventh-place game of the Bruce Gray Invitational. Eleven players scored for Enid in the contest as the Plainsmen snapped a four-game losing streak.
Yukon (3-15) dominated the early stages of the game, jumping out to leads of 16-2 and 19-5 in the first period before Enid, which shook up its starting lineup and juggled its usual rotation, responded with a 14-0 run that tied the game at 19-19 early in the second quarter. The Plainsmen (5-11) grabbed their first lead of the game when Darnae Banks’ old-fashioned three-point play broke a 23-23 tie and gave Enid a 26-23 lead with 1:39 left in the first half. The Plainsmen never trailed again in the contest. Enid outscored the Millers 38-17 in the second and third periods and ran away with the victory.
Enid was led in scoring by Darnae Banks and Jemarcus Jackson who each had 10 points.