By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
Hilldale has been seeking the game this season that would make them legitimate in the eyes of Oklahoma high school girls basketball. They got it Friday night.
The Lady Hornets beat a respected Vinita 42-40 in Verdigris Valley Conference action at the Hilldale Event Center.
Count Vinita coach Scott Reed, who has led his program to the state tournament for seven of the past 10 years, as a believer in Hilldale.
“I’m sure it’s a big win for them,” he said. “They’re a good ballclub. They deserve it. They’ve got five girls out there who hooked up and played well. Coach (Scott Hensley) did a good job with them. They were ready to play. They’ve got a chance to be in Oklahoma City.”
Hilldale led 12-8 after the first quarter, 24-14 at halftime, 30-28 after three periods and took the lead for good at 33-32 on Katie Kirkhart’s three-point play with 4:19 left in the game. She had 10 points in the fourth quarter as part of her game-high 23.
Kirkhart sank 9 of 15 shots from the field. Even though she’s a freshman, Kirkhart understood the importance of the victory.
“Winning this game is pretty awesome as we’ve improved so much,” she said.
Hensley was especially happy his team’s defense after Hilldale improved to 14-6 overall and 6-3 in the conference. Vinita dropped to 13-7.
“I watched Vinita play earlier in the year and I felt like we could play with them,” he said. “I knew they were going to play man-to-man and we wanted to try to spread them out.”
Kirkhart wasn’t the only player in double figures for Hilldale. Casady Mills, who sank two 3-pointers, finished with 11 points.
Carsyn Spurgeon, also a freshman, led Vinita with 12 points. Kamry Chamberlain added nine.
Vinita got its only lead in the game at 32-30 on Spurgeon’s basket with 4:38 left the game. Kirkhart and Hilldale took the lead right back on the 3-point play 19 seconds later and held on for the win.
Hilldale plays at Fort Gibson, ranked No. 2 in Okrankings.com 4A poll, Tuesday. Fort Gibson withstood a strong challenge from Hilldale in winning the Jan. 17 meeting, 56-49.
Vinita 53, Hilldale 48
It came down to the last shot and Hilldale came up empty.
Jordan Proctor was shooting a 3-pointer, but Phillip Willis blocked the attempt, raced to the other end of the court for a layup with 3.2 seconds left in the game. It was Hilldale’s fourth straight loss in falling to 5-14 and 1-8 in losing its eighth game this season by five points or less.
“The plan wasn’t for Jordan to get it,” coach Jeremy Rogers said. “We were trying to set a screen for Hunter Harrison to hand the ball off to Bill (Muse, Jr.), but they played good defense and Jordan happened to get it. It was a slow release on the shot. He needs to get rid of it a little quicker.”
Proctor said he didn’t elevate high enough on the shot.
“I just misjudged it,” he said. “We really needed a win. This is really frustrating right now.”
Harrison led the Hornets with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Dylan Rowan added 15.
Willis finished with 12 points while Gage Bertram led Vinita with 14 and Garrett Maxey added 11.
Vinita coach Tony Roach, the Muskogee boys coach in 2004-08, sighed in relief after the game.
“We got saved. That shot was going to go in,” he said. “That shot always goes in. We lost our man at the end and (Proctor) was wide open. It was just a good help and a big-time play at the end of the game to save overtime. That was a game-winning block.”