, Muskogee, OK

March 9, 2014

Sequoyah girls win in OT, join boys in return trip

By Nick Hampton
Phoenix Correspondent

— CHECOTAH —  And a freshman shall lead them.

Cenia Hayes had a career-high 24 points, including three clutch free-throws in overtime, to lead the fifth-ranked Sequoyah Lady Indians to a 58-53 decision over Vian in the consolation championship game of the Class 3A Area IV playoffs at the Checotah Event Center.

With the win, Sequoyah gets a return trip to the state tournament where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals last year.

“It was really nerve-racking for me in this atmosphere being a freshman and all,” said Hayes. “When I was at the free-throw line I just knew I had to make the shots because I thought it might be the only way we would win.”

The game saw 15 lead changes as the taller, more experienced Lady Indians fought off the Lady Wolverines.

Senior Erica Casey was a one-woman wrecking crew for Vian early on as she scored all of the Lady Wolverines’ 13 first-quarter points, eventually finishing with a team-high 21. But Sequoyah (25-2) answered blow-for-blow, finally taking a 14-13 lead at the end of the quarter. After being tied 24-24 at the half, Vian ended up leading 40-37 after three quarters.

The Lady Wolverines increased their lead to six points early in the fourth quarter and had Sequoyah in some foul difficulty with six team fouls. But three turnovers and several forced shots left the door open for the Lady Indians.

Vian coach Jordan Garner said there never was a thought to slow the pace with a six-point lead.

“That’s who we are. We’re not going to pull back on the reins, we just go, and good, bad, or indifferent, that’s what we do,” said Vian head coach Jordan Garner. “That up-tempo pace got us the lead, and it’s tough to go out and say let’s pull back some.”

Sequoyah pecked away at the Vian lead until Kelsey Leach knocked down her only 3-pointer of the night to give the Lady Indians a 47-46 lead with 1:50 left in regulation. Hayes hit a jumper to make it a three-point lead with 57 seconds to play. But Vian’s Nese Walters canned a trey with 42 ticks left to send the game to OT.

 In the first minute of the extra session, Sequoyah got a bucket by Jhonett Cookson, who bounced back with 11 points in the game after being held to just two in Friday’s loss to Verdigris. Also stepping up off the bench was Sierra Polk, who hit a pair of free throws and grabbed three rebounds in overtime, as the Lady Indians grabbed a 53-49 lead which then became 55-51 with 1:07 to play. Walters scored for Vian to cut the Sequoyah lead to two. But Hayes iced the win with her three charity shots over the final 44 seconds.

A defensive move to a man-to-man alignment in overtime by Sequoyah coach Larry Callison in also proved beneficial.   

“We had to get out on them because they were hitting the 3s so well,” he said.

Callison was also pleased to see his team react to both the pressure of Vian’s defense and to the emotional letdown from Friday night’s loss.

“I wasn’t sure how they would come back after we had our 22-game win streak snapped Friday and Vian forced eight turnovers in the second quarter,” said Callison. “But I was real pleased to see us hang in there. It was really a great team effort.”

In addition to Hayes and Cookson, Loren Young also reached double figures for the Lady Indians with 11 points while Walters had 13 points and Jennifer Hunter added 10 for 10th-ranked Vian, which  finished  20-4 and return four starters next year.

Pairings and game sites for the Sequoyah girls as well as the boys, who landed their spot in the final eight on Friday night, will be announced later today.