Finally ... Fort Gibson.
After reaching the state tournament for seven straight years, including four trips to the finals, the Lady Tigers can at last hold up the gold ball in Class 4A.
Coach Jerry Walker’s squad had to sweat out two missed free throws by Cache with one second left in overtime to top the Lady Bulldogs 52-51 before an estimated 7,500 fans at State Fair Arena on Saturday.
It becomes the school’s first title in girls’ basketball and caps off a perfect season for the Lady Tigers, finishing at 28-0. Cache finishes with a 24-3 mark after suffering its first loss to a Class 4A school in two years.
But calling it a state championship game does not quite describe it. A heavyweight title fight between the top two teams in the Okrankings.com 4A coaches poll (Cache atop FGHS) may be more appropriate.
Both teams battled to the final buzzer. When Katelynn Martine missed the two free throws, it was only then Fort Gibson could let loose a long-awaited celebration.
“This is one of those classic games,” Walker said. “I was telling (assistant) coach (Chuck) London that this was two good teams playing their rear-ends off. One was a state champion and the other trying to get there. It was back and forth.”
Cache came in seeking back-to-back championships. The Lady Tigers had been to the finals in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and were defeated by eventual state champion Vinita in a third consecutive down-to-the-wire playoff exit in 2009. Then, the 2010 team that lost in the quarterfinals graduated its top player in Oklahoma State signee Carissa Crutchfield and there were doubts as to whether this team could do what others did not.
Doubters have no argument now.
The decisive point in this one was Savannah Gray’s free throw with 13.9 seconds left in OT. She missed her first attempt and then she fouled Martine with one second remaining.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless,” Gray said during the postgame medal ceremony. “We’ve got the gold ball.”
Neither team led by more than three points in the second half and by no more than two in the fourth quarter.
Cache’s Honor Duvall sank two free throws with 0.7 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime in a 49-all deadlock.
Fort Gibson’s biggest lead was 19-12 in the second period, but Cache roared back with an 8-0 run to take a 20-19 lead with 4:10 left in the half on Duvall’s basket. The Lady Tigers outscored Cache 8-6 to take a 27-26 lead, but Martine’s 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds put the Lady Bulldogs ahead 29-27 at halftime.
Fort Gibson’s Jodi Glover popped in a 3-pointer at the end of the third period to tie the game at 39-39 going into the fourth quarter, setting up the knock-down, drag-out finish.
In the overtime, Nana Wallace put the Lady Tigers ahead at 51-49 on a layup with 3:37 left. Jennifer Rosado’s two free throws with 1:44 remaining tied it at 51-51. Rosado finished with 10 points.
But when it was over, Wallace, Glover and the underdog Lady Tigers had replaced the defending state champions atop 4A.
Glover finished with 20 points and Wallace had a game-high 23 points. Wallace, the Lady Tigers’ 5-foot-10 senior, had her own battle with the highly regarded 5-10 senior Duvall, until the latter fouled out with 1:58 left in the overtime to finish with a team-high 16 points.
“She’s really tough inside, but I’ve been waiting for this kind of game for my whole high school career,” Wallace said. “They had said some things about our schedule and that we were ranked too high, but we’ve shown we can beat anyone.”
Cache coach Brett Sanders praised the new champs.
“These were two good teams and Fort Gibson just wanted it more,” he said.