#3 Cashion - 47
#11 Rush Springs - 35
Addi Meeker - 14
Karlie Owens - 9
Presley Payahsape - 9
With Cashion clinging to a one-point lead with 3:09 to go in the third quarter, Presley Payahsape picked up her fourth foul. With Cashion frigid from outside and their best player sidelined, Rush Springs sensed this was their time to strike. It was a hostile environment for the #3 LadyCats. In what should of have been a neutral site location somehow felt like all 1,265 Rush Spring residents had crammed into the Chickasha High School Activity Center. The crowd reached near fever-pitch when Savanah Gallegos knocked down a three to tie the game up at 25 apiece with :49 to go in the third. But then Karlie Owens and Addi Meeker made a little noise of their own.
First it was Owens. She pulled down improbable rebound after improbable rebound while scoring six of Cashion's next nine points to put them up 34-31 with 3:30 to go in the game. Then it was Meeker. She rattled off six straight points to put the LadyCats up 40-33 with 1:24 to go. The duo scored 15 of Cashion's final 20 points to secure their spot in the state tournament for the third straight year.
Meeker is one of the team leaders. She is often looked at to carry the load. While Meeker was huge down the stretch, there was nobody more clutch than Owens.
"I told the girls after the game that if there was a game ball to be given, it would go to Karlie Owens," Maple said. "Everybody knows what you're going to get from Addi and from Presley but those x-factors, the Haley's (Pickle), the Karlie's, the Talli's (Robison), those are the ones we have to get production out of and tonight Karlie came in and produced on both sides of the floor. She had two huge rebounds that gave us extra opportunities. She was huge for us."
The magic number now for the LadyCats is three. Three more wins and they'll finally cut down the nets and hoist up the trophy. It won't come easy as they'll have to face a ghost from their past in the first round when they take on Preston.
When Maple first took over as head coach in 2014-15, the LadyCats bursted onto the scene, making it to the state tournament in his first season. They drew Preston in the first round where the Lady Pirates defeated Cashion 39-34.
"We get to have the rematch from the game two years ago," Maple said. "It's number three in the state against number four in the state. It's not the best draw as a coach but we're going to go out there and do what we do and try to make as few mistakes as possible."
As far as draws go, Cashion got the short end of the stick. Their game against Preston is the only Top-10 and Top-5 match up in the first round. In fact, Cashion's side of the bracket is loaded. If Cashion wants to make it to the Big House Saturday, they'll have to defeat the number three team in the state, likely the number two team in the state.
If Cashion makes it to the championship game, they could face the number one team in the state in Dale. The road may not be easy, but that's the road Cashion must take to capture the gold ball.
"The bracket is loaded," Maple said. "You have the number two, three and four teams in the state all on one side. It's just one of those things. If you want to be the number one team in the state you have to beat the best teams to get there. There's no excuses. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."
First Cashion has to go through Preston. When the bracket was announced Sunday afternoon, Maple didn't waste any time in preparing. When asked if he had a chance to scout them yet, Maple laughed.
"Oh only about 10 times," Maple said. "I've watched them live twice. I watched about 12-15 game films on them Sunday. They have some really nice players. They are athletic and they have some spot up shooters. They'll put pressure on you and try to get you to make mistakes."
This is the exact reason why the LadyCats beefed up their schedule this season. From the Tournament of Champions where they faced #1 Choctaw, #1 Collinsville, #3 Cryil to playing #2 Okarche twice, #1 Seiling, #14 Jones and #18 Chisholm, Cashion won't be overwhelmed by facing superior competition.
The LadyCats are 8-3 in games where they played ranked opponents. They'll have to push that number to 11-3 to cap off a memo