, Muskogee, OK


March 8, 2014

Lady Hornets rally, move within a game of state berth

WILBURTON – If the Hilldale Lady Hornets continue to respond like they have in the first two games of the Class 4A Area IV consolation tournament, coach Scott Hensley may copyright the script.

The Lady Hornets once again fell behind by five points, as they did against Victory Christian on Thursday, in the first quarter and rallied to beat the Poteau Lady Pirates 57-52 in the semifinal on Friday.

“They’re a bunch of winners,” Hensley said about his squad. “These girls, I’m telling you, they’re used to winning. They know how to do it and they know how to compete.”

The victory sets Hilldale (19-7) up against Fort Gibson in a Battle for the Rock, girls basketball division with a state tournament berth at stake.  Fort Gibson has had nine straight of those trips and has won two gold balls. Hilldale, on the other hand, is in uncharted territory in a win-and-in game.

"Right now I’m not thinking about state,” said Hensley. “I’m just thinking about the next game. Fort Gibson is a great team and probably has the best coach in the country. It’s cool though, us and them for the right to go to state.”

 Kenzie Mize had a game-high 22 points while Katie Kirkhart finished with 17. The team lead in rebounds was the reverse as Kirkhart finished with eight while Mize had seven.

Kirkhart knew the key to the win was how the team came out to start the third quarter. In the first game of the regional tournament, won by Poteau 61-56, the Lady Pirates took the game in the first four minutes of the third quarter.

“We knew they would come out with the same intensity that they did the first time we played them,” she said. “We just had to match that and we did.”

Trailing 25-24 at intermission, Hilldale tied the game at 27-27 with 6:43 left in the quarter on a 3 by Hillary Calvert. After Poteau scored the next four points to lead 31-27, the Lady Hornets went on a 7-0 run, capped off by 3 by Mize to put Hilldale on top to stay 34-31.

With Hilldale leading 35-33, Kirkhart took control of Hilldale’s scoring, converting a driving bank shot to make the score 37-33 and nailed a 3 at the buzzer to give the Lady Hornets a 40-34 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.

“I think (Poteau) just didn’t shift like the last time we played them,” Mize said. “That allowed us to get open more and get passes in.”

One of the unsung heroes for Hilldale was Destiny Riddle. Her main responsibility was to stop Poteau’s leading scorer Kaitlan Standbridge and Riddle held her to 11 points.

“My goal was to not let her catch the ball at all,” said Riddle whose two 3s early in the second quarter got the offense on track. “We were excited in the locker room at halftime and we couldn’t wait to come out and finish the game out.”

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