OOLOGAH — Hailey Grant couldn’t afford to let her emotions get the best of her.
After Cascia Hall trimmed Claremore’s once 12-point lead to six about midway through the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-1 senior had a decision to make.
Grant could relay the pressure to another teammate, or she could win the game for not only her team, but also her mother.
She chose the latter.
Grant drained 8-of-8 free throws in the game’s waning moments, finishing with 19 points and six rebounds to lead the Lady Zebras to a 47-39 win over Cascia Hall in the first round of the Oologah Tournament on Thursday afternoon.
According to Tulsa World sports writer Mike Brown, Grant’s mother, Lynette, underwent surgery on Thursday to remove two brain tumors that were discovered by a specialist a day prior.
Leaving her mother behind for a basketball game was a difficult decision to make, but Grant certainly honored Lynette with her performance.
“Yes, it was a tough decision, but I knew she’d want me to be here and play and get a win for her,” Grant told the Tulsa World.
It was the Lady Zebras’ fourth-straight win since opening the season 0-3.
They have already reached nearly half of last year’s win total (9) in only seven games, which is quite an accomplishment for first-year coach Mike Hughes, who led Broken Arrow to state titles in 2014 and 2015. Claremore played 23 games in 2018-19.
“Every program has its ups and downs,” Hughes told the Tulsa World. “We’re young, and we’re making mistakes, but we aren’t making as many. Every day we just try to correct things we did wrong from the game before.”
Claremore (4-3) moved on to play Class 4A No. 7 Vinita in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday. Read correspondent Glenn Hibdon’s full story online or in the Tuesday edition.
Although Grant’s late-game heroics were crucial to securing the victory, her role in the first half was pivotal as well.
Despite taking an early 6-3 lead courtesy of a pair of 3-pointers from Grace Bump and Kylee Ohmon, the Lady Zebras found themselves trailing by six entering the second period following a 9-0 Cascia Hall run.
The senior ended a nearly quarter-long scoreless drought with five-straight points, including a 3-ball, to spark Claremore to a 15-14 halftime lead. The Lady Commandos were held to 2 points in the quarter.
Grant was back at it again in the third period, drilling two more 3-pointers while helping the Lady Zebras to a 33-21 advantage.
Fellow senior Maddie Hardage—who came within one rebound of a double-double— found an offensive rhythm during that time as well, notching nine of her 13 points in the third.
Grant and Hardage combined for 26 of Claremore’s 32 second-half points. Bump (4) and Breanna Hollister (2) tallied the remaining six.
Cascia Hall (3-4) came within four at 43-39 with 20 seconds remaining after back-to-back 3-balls from Landrey Hill and Audrey Gammil, but Grant closed with four-straight free throws.
Kate Dreyer led the Lady Commandos with 15 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we had to finish this game and keep our streak going because we have a lot of basketball to play this month, and we need that momentum,” Grant told the Tulsa World.