Lady Panthers season ends at Area
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
The final game of basketball for this year’s Lady Panthers served as a microcosm for the overall season. Simply qualifying for Area was a testament to the odds this group of girls has overcome and the respect they have earned.
The disappointment felt from watching the game slip away in the final moments of overtime proved there had been an altering of expectations for this squad. It wasn’t enough they were there. They were supposed to win.
In the end, that thirst for more remained unquenched. What remained was a reflection of accomplishment and pride. The 2019-20 basketball season will be a high mark for future Lady Panthers to aspire to and a lesson to never be satisfied with someone else’s expectations.
The first quarter didn’t see a lot of scoring from either team. The Lady Panthers were able to hold Rejoice Christian to just 4 points but felt the frustration of watching a lot of their own shots miss the mark. Abby Harelson kept the Lady Panthers out front as she was responsible for all 6 points during the opening quarter.
Rejoice Christian found success early in the second quarter with a lot of scoring under the basket and went on an 8-0 run. A shooting foul on Jenna Berryhill brought the first two baskets of the second quarter for the Lady Panthers with just over two minutes remaining in the half.
Berryhill followed up on her successful free throws a short time later by nailing a three-pointer, but Rejoice Christian still led 14-11. That lead grew to 16-11 with just fourteen seconds remaining in the half. Sophie Turner took control of the ball and sunk a buzzer beating three-pointer, sending the Lady Panthers into halftime with a jolt of momentum, albeit trailing 14-16.
The third quarter evoked images of Adam Sandler’s character in Happy Gilmore as Panther fans wanted to know why the ball wouldn’t go into the hole. For all of their efforts, the Lady Panthers only managed a three-pointer from Jenna Berryhill during the third.
In spite of the missed opportunities on offense, Okemah’s defense and rebounding kept Rejoice Christian from pulling too far away. The Lady Panthers only trailed 17-21 as the fourth quarter got underway.
Then the switch flipped. The Lady Panthers nearly matched their entire points accumulated for the first three quarters during the fourth quarter. Okemah switched from a pass heavy offense to pounding it inside the paint, forcing Rejoice Christian to play more aggressively on defense and on occasion, sending the Lady Panthers to the foul line.
With five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lady Panthers tied the game. The point differential would remain within two throughout the end of regulation. The Lady Panthers held a 31-30 lead with forty-five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter but Rejoice Christian drew a foul and tied the game back up at the free throw line, ultimately sending the game into overtime as neither team scored again in the fourth.
During the fourth quarter, the Lady Panthers outscored Rejoice Christian 14-10. Cameron Duncan led the final quarter effort with 6 points, Sophie Turner scored 3 points, Abby Harelson and Jenna Berryhill each had 2 points and Emily Harris also added one point.
The four-minute overtime quarter saw a silent scoreboard until the final minute. In the last remaining moments, Rejoice Christian took the lead and forced the Lady Panthers into a fouling scenario to keep time on the clock.
Rejoice Christian was able to capitalize at the free throw line and led 36-31 with eleven seconds remaining. A final stab of defiance from Sophie Turner gave the Lady Panthers 33 points, but the deficit was too much for the little time that remained and Okemah fell 37-31. With that, the Lady Panther basketball season concluded.