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Oklahoma 2A girls quarterfinals: No. 1 Dale overcomes early punch, fights back to down Okemah

Howe, Riverside and Merritt also win in 2A quarterfinal round

OKLAHOMA CITY - Gracee Radford came into the state tournament knowing her team was marked. 

As the No. 1 team in Class 2A and the defending champions, the senior expects Dale to get every team’s best punch.

However, when that punch came in the first half of their quarterfinal matchup with Okemah, it took some time for Lady Pirates to adjust. But once they did, they rolled to a 51-33 victory Wednesday at the State Fairgrounds Arena.

“We just got to focus and think that we can lose any game,” Radford said. “We have a huge target on our back and everybody's going to play the best against us and we're going to get everybody's best shot, so we've got to come in focused and ready to play.”

Okemah gave Dale all they wanted and could handle in the first half. Whether they were gambling on defense looking to pick up steals or trapping the Lady Pirates guards, they were the more aggressive unit on the floor.

After Meranda Switch knocked down a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close out the first quarter, they found themselves down only one point. They then took the lead to start the second quarter to the surprise of the DHS fans.

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However, the Lady Pirates began to settle down and claw their way back in control of the contest. It began with Radford establishing her presence, which the Lady Panthers didn’t seem to have an answer for as Dale took a 28-20 halftime advantage.

Okemah continued to play strong defense in the second half, but their offensive proficiency was unable to keep pace. They missed too many shots in the paint and around the rim to knock off the reigning champions.

“In the second half, I think our ball movement was everything,” Dale’s Teague Muncy said. “In the first half, It was kind of slower and we would hold the ball for longer.

"In the second half, we started really sharing the ball, moving it really well, and running in transition better. I think that helped us out a lot.”

However, it wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter and his team was up 18 points that Dale coach Eric Smith seemed to lower the intensity. He cleared the bench with 1:48 left in the contest.

“Defensive rebounding is huge for us and we're big and physical and long, so we wore them down eventually,” Smith said. “But they did a good job coming out, knocking down shots and penetrating and getting in the gaps of our zone. But overall, I was pretty pleased with our effort.”

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Both Radford and Muncy scored 13 points to lead the Lady Pirates. Radford added 12 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.

Elaine Berryhill had a team-high 12 points for the Lady Panthers.

Dale will face Howe in the 2A semifinals Friday. They will be one step away from having the opportunity to defend their title.

"Any team can beat any team. It's a state tournament and crazy things happen, but hopefully we'll be ready and mentally prepared,” Radford said

“I love pressure. I perform better under pressure. So does the team. Coach puts the pressure on us for practice, so we're used to it."

Howe 56, KIPP Tulsa 43

KIPP Tulsa was making its first trip to the state tournament in any sport and it showed at times against Howe. Despite two starters fouling out, the Lady Bulldogs cut the Lady Lions' lead down to six, 50-44. with 2:15 left.

Howe was able to run more than 30 seconds off the clock before scoring a basket, pushing its advantage back to eight.

Without Heaven Smith in the lineup, KIPP had few options to turn to. Howe picked up its defensive pressure and the Lady Lions kept forcing their opponent into turnovers (18) and a few bad shots.

The Lady Lions made enough plays down the stretch to hold on for a seven-point victory.

Smith led KIPP with 18 points while Aire’l Vazquez added 11 points.

Slatey Jo Free paced the Lady Lions with 17 points.

Howe will face top-seed Dale Friday at noon at the Big House.

Riverside 72, Vanoss 33

Despite moving up from Class A back up to 2A, Riverside has not slowed down its style of play in the postseason. They put in a workman-like effort in the opener against Vanoss as the Lady Braves pulled away to a big lead throughout the first half.

Paced by the inside and outside play of Jocelyn Bell and Karliey Parker, the Lady Braves had the Lady Wolves’ defense on their heels.

But it was Riverside’s defense that put the game out of reach. They held Vanoss to just 21 percent shooting from the field while forcing the No. 6 seed into 19 turnovers.

Parker finished the game with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting. She also added six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Bell posted 16 points, eight boards, three assists and two blocked shots in the victory.

Avery Ellis finished up her prep career with Vanoss with 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists.

Merritt 56, Pocola 48

No matter how hard Merritt tried, they couldn't shake loose of Pocola. It wasn’t until the second half that the Oilerettes gave themselves some breathing room and they were able to put the Lady Indians away.

“We played okay,” Oilerettes coach Jeff Daugherty said. “I thought the second half, we finally settled down and didn't rush the 3 quite as much and knocked a few down.

"Had some moments where we've got to take care of business a little bit better and stuff, but overall, I thought it was pretty good.”

The Lady Indians got 16 points from Allyssa Parker while Lety Parga added 12 points.

Merritt was paced by Addison Hartman, who scored 20 points while grabbing seven rebounds.

Chloe Stout was 5-of-10 from 3-point range for her 15 points.

“We've got five kids that can score,” Daughtery said. “They're pretty balanced. Three or four of them have scored over 20 in a game; a couple of them over 30. It's just who knows what night, so I'm tickled to death with them.”

The victory sets up a matchup with No. 2 Riverside Friday at 1:30 p.m. The two squads didn’t see each other during the regular season, but Daughtery knows his Oilerettes can expect a battle.

“We're going to have to take care of the ball and we're going to have to play physical,” Daughtery said. “They're a really, really talented team, but we'll go see what happens.”

-- Michael Kinney | @SBLiveOK