By Nick Hampton
Hillary was in the news again Tuesday night.
But it wasn’t the Hillary in our nation’s capital, it was Hillary Calvert of the Hilldale Hornets who came off the bench and sparked the Lady Hornets to a 42-36 Verdigris Valley Conference victory against Wagoner at the Hilldale Event Center.
The senior forward, who is coming off the flu, knocked down 11 of her 14 points in the final quarter to propel Hilldale to its 13th victory of the season.
“Hillary is working her way back into shape,” Hilldale coach Scott Hensley said. “She felt terrible tonight, but she came in and played a heck of a game.”
Calvert, who also had a key rebound late in the game for Hilldale, was glad to see her shots start falling.
“The shots weren’t falling in the first half so I just had to step up and make some shots,” Calvert said. ‘My teammates did a good job of working the ball around and making good passes to me when I was open.”
The game also marked the first time in this century that the Lady Hornets (13-6) played at home while being ranked in the top 20, drawing the No. 19 spot in Class 4A this week according to Okrankings.com.
“It is nice to be ranked,” Hensley said. “It’s a blessing to be able to coach a bunch of young ladies that work as hard as they do.”
The teams see-sawed with the lead in the first half with Hilldale on top 12-4 after the first quarter, but Wagoner outscoring the Lady Hornets 14-7 in the second quarter to trim the Hilldale lead to just one at halftime, 19-18.
Wagoner used a 2-3 zone, forcing Hilldale to shoot from the outside, while using a double post on offense to outscore the Lady Hornets 16-7 in the third quarter. Wagoner owned a 34-25 advantage at the end of three. But then Calvert sprang into action.
Calvert converted a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute of the fourth quarter to cut the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to just three points.
Hilldale ran off five more points to take a 36-34 lead and Wagoner tied it at 36-36 with 4:10 left to play. But that would be it for the Lady Bulldogs as they committed five turnovers down the stretch and went 0-for-3 from the free throw line, all on the front end of one-and-one situations.
Hilldale, meanwhile, was six-of-eight from the free throw line, including both ends of a one-and-one by Calvert, to put the game away.
Senior floor leader Leah Gragg, who kept Hilldale going in the first half with a three from beyond the arc, also had 14 points to join Calvert in double figures. Cherokee Ridge was the leading scorer for the Lady Bulldogs (2-16) with 12 points and Gabby Roberts had 11.
Wagoner 51, Hilldale 47
It was another frustrating night for the Hornets, who have had several close games slip away this season.
The Hornets, behind the 3-point shooting of Bill Muse Jr, led by as many as eight in the first half and still owned a 35-34 lead after three quarters.
But the Bulldogs (8-11) took advantage of icy shooting by the Hornets (2-of-10 in the fourth quarter) and four turnovers to score eight unanswered points out of the gate in the fourth quarter and grab a seven-point lead 42-35 half way through the quarter.
The Hornets managed to cut the deficit to just three points on a couple of occasions, the last at 46-43 with 1:31 to play. But Byron Adams hit a pair of clutch free throws with 36 seconds to go to give the Bulldogs a six-point advantage at 50-44 and they survived another trey by Muse to get the win. Wagoner has beaten Hilldale twice in their three games.
Muse paced the Hornets (5-12) with 18 points, including five from beyond the arc and Jordan Proctor added 10 Hilldale. Wagoner was led by senior guard Decarius Clark with 15 points while Adams chipped in 13.
“We’ve gotten a lot better since the semester break,” Wagoner Coach Jason Giddens said. “We had some injuries early and the kids are starting to learn their roles and I think we’re improving.”
The Hornets will host Vinita on Friday while the Bulldogs entertain Jay.