OKLAHOMA CITY – Junior Sarah Griswold played sparingly in each of Okarche’s two previous trips to the state tournament.
Friday against Pond Creek-Hunter, Griswold never left the floor, and with good reason.
The 6-foot post scored 10 points on 5 for 5 shooting and nabbed five rebounds and two blocked shots in Okarche’s 47-35 victory over the Lady Panthers to advance to the Class A state final Saturday at 1:45 against top-ranked Seiling.
“I’m so proud of her. She’s never been on this floor. She was on the team last year, but didn’t get to play a lot,” head coach Cherie Myers said. “But to step up in a big situation like that was impressive.”
Griswold gave Okarche (26-4) a 32-21 lead on a transition layup midway through the third quarter, but Pond Creek battled back to even the score at 32 early in the fourth quarter. That’s when Griswold did her best work, putting in five straight points to regain the lead for the Lady Warriors. Okarche led the rest of the way.
“We just knew we had to keep pushing and playing hard,” Griswold said of the spurt.
Griswold played a fair amount during the regular season as a sophomore, but never developed into a consistent scorer and her minutes dropped in the postseason. This season, she’s averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game.
“I think she’s matured in not only playing her game, but she knows when I’m barking and griping she handles that, which before that always bothered her,” Myers said.
Senior Kinsey Neiderer added 11 points. She scored the first six points of the second half for OHS, all from inside the paint, to extend Okarche’s 23-19 halftime lead to 10.
“They’d been doubling down on Sarah so we tried to go to the offside to Kinsey and she responded,” Myers said. “They’re two pretty tough to handle if they’re playing well.”
Earlier in the day, No. 1 Seiling beat Cyril 47-35 to reach the finals. The defending state champions are 27-1 this season and haven’t lost since Dec. 29 against Dale.
“We’re excited to get to play them,” Griswold said.
Pond Creek-Hunter (21-7) was led by Brooke Rayner’s 16 points. She was Pond Creek’s only double-figure scorer. Paige Owens added 10 points and six rebounds for Okarche.
The Lady Panthers only lead of the game came on their first basket. They shot 36 percent for the game and made 5 of 14 3-point attempts. Okarche shot 39.5 percent from the floor, connecting on 4 of 11 from 3-point range and 13 of 19 free throws.