By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
She didn’t lead her team in scoring, but Lady Eagles sophomore Jessica Blanton stole the show Monday at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center, leading a defensive charge as Deer-Creek Lamont squashed Burlington’s state hopes for the second straight season, 35-31, Monday in the Class B Area III consolation finals.
The Lady Eagles held Burlington to its season-low in scoring to secure its third straight state tournament berth.
“Defense wins games,” said Blanton, who was the primary matchup in holding Burlington’s high-scoring Tiffany Rieger to 17 points — almost 10 below her season average. “Offense comes naturally.”
Burlington, which entered the game with a 2-1 lead in the season series, opened Mon-day’s area consolation final with two misses and two turnovers in the opening 2:42 to fall behind 5-0 on a Katherine Muegge trey and an inside basket from Katy Starr, the latter of which would quickly become a trend.
Starr scored six of the Lady Eagles’ nine points in the opening quarter to take a 9-6 lead and finished with 18 — more than half of DCLA’s total.
“It was a big game,” said Starr, who was still well short of her career-best 27. “I had to do it.”
DCLA continued to patiently swing the ball in the second quarter, and when Burlington’s defense collapsed to prevent an entry pass to Starr, Blanton found easy openings, scoring eight of her 11 in the frame including a three just before the intermission buzzer.
Burlington took advantage of DCLA’s pass-heavy offense, forcing eight turnovers in the first half and 16 in the game, but failed to convert transition chances into points, shooting 38 percent in the first half, including five misses in seven first-half shots for Rieger.
Burlington finished with 12 steals, including a game-high four from Rieger, but when the Lady Elks couldn’t force a turnover, DCLA took advantage more often than not, shooting 62 percent be-fore halftime and 59 percent for the game.
“That’s how they play,” Bur-lington coach Kirsten Pruett said of the game’s pace. “We knew that coming in. I guess you could say it forced us to (play their pace), but we had a different game plan in mind today, and we just didn’t execute it.”
Burlington trailed 19-12 after two quarters and 21-12 after failing to score in the third until Rieger pulled down an offensive rebound and scored with 3:31 left in the frame.
Each team managed just four points in the third quarter, and Rieger entered the final frame of her Burlington career with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.
“It always is (tough against DCLA),” Rieger said. “They always have a good game plan for me … I sure had to get a shot off quick if I was going to get one, or just get my way to the bucket somehow and hope they’d call a foul.”
Rieger nearly pulled Burlington back in the fourth, scoring nine of the Lady Elks’ 15, including an and-one jumper after getting Blanton off-balance with a crossover and hitting a 12-foot jumper through the foul to pull her team within 33-31. But Rieger missed the free throw, and DCLA broke the Burlington press on the next trip despite the Lady Elks’ attempt to foul, ending in an easy basket for Starr to put the Lady Eagles up 35-31 with 9.1 seconds left.
“It (felt) good,” said Starr, who missed only once in 10 attempts from the floor. “I would have felt bad if I hadn’t hit it. It felt really good.”
DCLA blanketed Rieger on the final trip, and after the broken play, Katelyn Garvie heaved a deep two-pointer that missed as the buzzer sounded.
“That’s life, I guess,” said Rieger, whose 17 points put her sixth on the list of all-time scorers in Oklahoma’s five-on-five girls history with 2,535 in her career.
Sarah Garvie scored seven and had two steals for Burlington, which finished its season 25-6.
Muegge finished with four points and sophomore Kimberly Scott had two for DCLA, which advances to play top-ranked Hammon (25-4) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Carl Albert.