OKLAHOMA CITY – Winning a state championship just wasn't in the cards this year for Class 2A No. 1 Dale, who lost to unranked Christian Heritage at the 2A state final 43-34 Saturday at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. The game was the fourth meeting between the teams of the season and second loss to the Crusaders for the Lady Pirates who finish the season 29-3.
The loss was hard to swallow but Christian Heritage earned it, coach Josh Forsythe said.
“It's always difficult to beat a team once, but it's even more difficult to beat them three or four times,” he said. “They're a good team, obviously. In the last two days they've beaten the No. 3 and now the No. 1 in consecutive days. That's a credit to them.”
Dani Manning and Taylor Thompson both hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter to give Dale an 8-3 lead with 3:35 left, but Christian Heritage responded with a 5-0 run as the Lady Pirates went cold to tie at 8 going to the second.
Hannah Ash kicked off a 6-0 run through the 4:37 mark of the second to give the Lady Pirates a 14-8 lead – their biggest of the game. The Crusader's Olivia Curtis became a one-girl wrecking crew after that, putting up seven points in a 10-0 run for the Lady Crusaders to lead 18-14 with 47 seconds before the half. Claire Chastain hit a shot just before the buzzer to cut the lead to 18-16 at the break.
The Lady Crusaders came out firing again in the second half with a 7-3 run before Ash put in a bucket and Chastain hit the backend of two free throws to make it a three-point game at 25-22 with three minutes left in the third. Christian Heritage responded with an 8-0 run early into the fourth and controlled the game from there.
The Lady Pirates got within six with a little more than a minute left, but the Lady Crusaders did well enough at the line to hold off a late surge.
“I was proud of our girls. We never gave up, we got it down to six late and kept playing hard to the buzzer,” Forsythe said.
Ash led the Lady Pirates with nine points, Chastain finished with seven and Thompson put up six. Manning had five points but was in foul trouble throughout the game and fouled out with 4:31 left. The girls were 4-of-20 from 3-point range and 26.5 percent on field goals.
Losing Manning was something that Dale had to try and recover from.
“It's a team sport. It might be the ultimate team sport. And everybody on the team has got to step up when those things happen,” Forsythe said.
Chastain led everyone in rebounding with 11 and Mikayla Rutland had three assists.
Curtis led all scorers with 11 for the Lady Crusaders, Rylee Langerman had 10 and Lexie Davis had nine.
The Lady Pirates graduate Manning, Ash and Thompson. The girls went to the state tournament three out of their four years.
“I'm just really proud of our three seniors, what they've done for our program and the type of leaders that they've been,” Forsythe said.