The Ponca City girls’ basketball season came to a disappointing end last night as the Ladycats fell to Deer Creek 56-41.
Tears were heavy as the girls made their way to the lobby where many Ponca fans who braved the trip to Bartlesville in the rain awaited to boost their spirits.
The loss was devastating for a group of girls that had high expectations after making the state tournament the previous season.
After a sloppy first quarter from both teams, Deer Creek was able to make a run late in the 2nd quarter and take a 15 point lead into the locker room.
Spurred by a tough pressure man-to-man defense, Deer Creek was able to hold the Ladycats to only 13 points in the first half and outscored Ponca City 16 to five in the 2nd quarter.
The Ladycats would start to find some offense in the second half as Julissa Garcia was able to find her way to the lane, but Deer Creek was able to match the Ladycats step for step in the 3rd quarter thanks to trips to the free throw line.
With those fouls, many Ponca City players also found themselves in foul trouble. After Garcia’s strong 3rd quarter she exited the game early in the 4th fouling out with 10 points on the night. The senior who had given so much to her team had been regulated to the bench for the rest of the game that would ultimately be the last of her high school career.
The Ladycats would try to make some magic happen in the 4th quarter going into it trailing by 14. Ryley Beard hit her first shot from the field and then hit another on her way to an eight point 4th quarter. Karis Branstetter drained her first of two three pointers and all of a sudden what was an 18 point Deer Creek lead had been cut to seven with six minutes to go.
Deer Creek would thwart the run by Ponca by putting the ball in the hands of their sophomore Skyler Vann. She would hit three shots to get the lead back to double digits for Deer Creek and finish with 23 points on the night.
Coach Fincher was disappointed in the loss, but was proud of the girls’ in making a comeback effort.
“In the first half we played hesitant and had no movement on offense. It wasn’t until the second half until we got any kind of rhythm going. I thought the girls played hard until the final horn.”
Much of that lack of rhythm was due to Deer Creek’s approach. They pressured ball handlers throughout the game and with their length it was hard for Ponca City to get it going from the perimeter. The Ladycats would also be plagued by turnovers much of the game.
One could only help and wonder if it would have made any difference if Ponca City would have had Baylee Fincher on the floor. The sophomore guard suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain against Blackwell a few weeks ago. One more ball handler and shooter could have made a major difference on the floor.
With the season coming to an end Coach Fincher reflected on the season.
“I am extremely proud of this team. They have fought through injuries all season and kept working hard. They have been a joy to coach. This group of seniors has helped put the Ponca City Ladycats Basketball team on the map. Ponca City should be proud of these girls as they represented the school and the community well.”
Those seniors consisting of Baylee Broome, Julissa Garcia, Zoe Freeman and Ally Jennings will close their high school careers knowing they were a part of something special helping lead the Ladycats to the state tournament just one year ago.
Ponca City finishes the season 17-6 and a record of 4-6 against 6A opponents. It was a tough year plagued by injuries before the season even started. Most of the year the Ladycats didn’t have their full roster at their disposal.
It was certainly not the way Ponca City wanted the season to go, ending the season in the first round of regionals, but the future still looks bright for this team.
With a host of key players coming back they will turn their attention to next season.
Watch out for the Ladycats in winter of 2018.
Reporting From Bartlesville, Jordan Woodruff
Pictures courtesy of Larry Williams