PRYOR — Two years ago, defeating Vinita seemed like an impossible task for Oologah girls basketball.
That is when Doug Winters took over the program and learned about the Lady Mustangs’ insecurities concerning certain teams.
“First meeting we had, we talked about who are our rivals, and they named three or four teams that they said they couldn’t beat,” Winters said. “I said, ‘What do you mean you can’t beat them?’ They said, ‘We just never have.’”
Included on that list of “unbeatable” squads were Adair, Verdigris, Ft. Gibson and of course Vinita.
Under the watchful eyes of Winters, Oologah conquered two of those teams (Adair and Verdigris) during the 2018-19 season.
The Lady Mustangs get their shot at Ft. Gibson when they host the Lady Tigers at 6:30 p.m. Friday, but first came Vinita.
“Vinita, in our minds there is just something about them,” Winters said. “I told them they’re just as good, they just gotta believe.”
They certainly believed on Saturday night inside the Burdick Center in Pryor.
Behind 31 points from Karly Wadsworth, Oologah defeated the ninth-ranked Lady Hornets 54-40 in the Red Crown Credit Union Pryor Invitational championship.
It was the Lady Mustangs’ first win over Vinita since Dec. 18, 2012—a 45-24 decision—ending a 15-game losing streak to the perennial power.
Two of those losses came this season, most recently in the Oologah Tournament championship on Jan. 11 (48-45). The other was a 67-60 road loss on Dec. 17.
“It’s going to help us for the playoffs,” Winters said. “That mindset of ‘We know we’re good, but we just don’t think we can beat them’ goes out the window now. We know we can beat any team.”
The boys team completed the Pryor Invitational sweep with a 49-37 victory over Berryhill in the nightcap thanks to star performances from seniors Konnor Davis (16 points, 1 rebound) and Cody Elrod (13 points, 8 rebounds).
Both squads return to the court against Vinita beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday with the girls game. The boys contest will follow at 8 p.m.
GIRLS | OOLOGAH 54, VINITA 40: Karly Wadsworth so desperately wanted 33 points.
That was the only thing on the senior’s mind as she dribbled out the clock in the waning moments of the Pryor Invitational championship.
So, with her first-career victory over Vinita already secured, she decided to cap the momentous occasion with a career-high as well.
Wadsworth darted into the paint, dodging several Lady Hornet defenders on the way to an easy layup to bring her total to 33 points.
Or so she thought.
The referee under the basket inexplicably whistled Wadsworth for traveling before turning to her with an even more appalling statement.
“Don’t be disrespectful,” he told her.
That official later admitted Wadsworth didn’t travel, he was just preventing her from embarrassing Vinita (14-3).
This action of exaggerated self-importance and misplaced responsibility from a referee kept Wadsworth from realizing a goal that has constantly eluded her.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve had 31 points four times (throughout my career),” Wadsworth said. “I missed those three free throws (in the fourth quarter), so I wish I could’ve had that, but I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful at all. I was just trying to get my career-high.”
She was content with her 31 points and 5 rebounds, though.
Wadsworth scored 12 of her 17 second-half points in the third quarter, opening the frame with four-straight points to break a 21-all halftime tie.
Oologah (12-4) never trailed again, outscoring Vinita 33-19 in the second half.
She was most impressive from beyond the arc, hitting six 3-pointers in all. Four of her first five field goals came from long range.
“I was just trying to play calm, most of all, and play confident, too,” Wadsworth said. “I just tried to play my game and not psych myself out.”
Lilly Ruark, who snagged 4 rebounds, was the Lady Mustangs’ second-leading scorer with 7 points.
Baylie DeSpain and Kyah Dixon co-led the team on the boards with 6 rebounds apiece while finishing with 3 and 2 points, respectively.
Aside from Wadsworth’s electric outing, Oologah’s defense on the Lady Hornets’ leading scorer Lizzie Shephard was a key contributing factor to the separation in the second half.
Shephard, who finished with 16 points and 3 rebounds, was held to only 4 points in the second half (one field goal and two free throws).
The Lady Mustangs forced eight turnovers during that stretch, including seven in the third quarter.
Not even a 38-27 rebound advantage—16-2 offensive—could help Vinita overcome Shephard’s ineffectiveness.
Lady Hornets junior Kennady Roach grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
“Boy, tonight the second-half defense was amazing,” Winters said. “You could tell they wanted it, and you could tell in the fourth quarter that they weren’t scared. Today was a big step for us, and that’s why they were so excited.”
BOYS | OOLOGAH 49, BERRYHILL 37: Throughout the duration of the Pryor Invitational, Cody Elrod’s friends and teammates told him he was All-Tournament material.
He proved them right.
The senior tallied 13 points and 8 rebounds in a 49-37 win over Berryhill in the tournament championship, earning himself a first-team All-Tournament distinction in the process.
“I was really working for this one,” Elrod said. “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten something like this.”
Oologah (11-5) fell behind 11-0 early, but Elrod and fellow senior Konnor Davis swiftly took care of the issue.
The pair combined for 17 of the Mustangs’ first 19 points as part of a 27-8 first-half run that extended to 32-8 early in the third period. Davis, who was named the Tournament MVP, led all scorers with 16 points.
Elrod gave Oologah the lead for good at 14-13 with the first basket of the second quarter.
“They’re just getting better, better and better,” Mustangs coach Nathan Smith said. “They’ve been playing for me for four years—Cody has been at the varsity level for three years, and Konnor has been my starting point guard for four years. They both deserve all-tournament team.
“Cody is starting to play like I always knew he could. When he plays that way, we’re pretty good.”
Although Davis was instrumental during the rally, his biggest contribution came during a late push from the Chiefs (7-10).
Led by Dawson James and Davis Dotson, Berryhill came within six at 36-30 in the final frame courtesy of an 11-4 run.
Elrod pushed the advantage back to eight with a layup, and Davis scored eight of Oologah’s final 11 points from there, including a 3-pointer that put the game out of reach for good at 41-30.
“I just knew I had to make a play for my team,” Davis said. “That’s what I usually do, but we play as a team.”
Chase Gibson (5 points, 5 rebounds) and Jack Barron (2 points, 7 rebounds) had impressive showings for the Mustangs as well.
Dotson (10 points, 8 rebounds), James (10 points, 2 rebounds) and Trez Wilson (10 points, 3 rebounds) all scored in double figures for Berryhill.
“After they went on their run, I felt like we controlled the rest of the game,” Smith said. “We ran offense the way we wanted to run it, and when they tried to take things away from us, we found other ways to score.”