Story and photo by: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The No.11 ranked Sand Springs Lady Sandites (14-7) just can't seem to catch a break. After winning eight straight earlier in the season, they've now dropped five of their last seven matchups and haven't defeated a ranked opponent in nearly a month.
It's not due to a lack of effort, however. All of their last three losses were contested to the final moments and were to top-ten teams.
The girls defeated the Union Redskins (8-13) by double digits Friday night after eight Sandites got on the board and Gloria Mutiri and Sydney Pennington each doubled with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Tuesday night the girls battled valiantly against the No.9 Owasso Lady Rams (17-5) and returned from multiple double digit deficits to as close as 49-48 before the Rams finally got the edge and the 53-48 win in the final moments.
This time Pennington was the top scorer for the Sandites, followed by freshman Destiny Johnson, and each put up 8 points in the final stanza that saw the home team outscore their opponents 17-9.
The Sandites spent the entire night in the hole after giving up four straight turnovers to start with a 9-0 deficit. Johnson finally interrupted to onslaught with a layup, followed by Owasso's top-scorer, Rachel Skalnik, then the girls came alive.
Pennington missed her first shot of the game, but rebounded herself and sank the second attempt to cut it to 11-4. Sophomores Terryn Milton and Mya Bhinhar put up a basket each for the opposition, but Gloria Mutiri hit her lone basket of the night soon after. Mutiri's next attempt would fall short but Pennington fought for another rebound and hooked the ball out to senior Cierra Scott in the corner for a three.
Johnson snagged a steal off the Ram's subsequent possession and handed it off to Scott for yet another three to make the game 16-12.
Some sloppy Sandite work gave up the next five points to Owasso but Pennington responded with five of her own to cut the gap to 21-17 at the buzzer.
The next two periods were far closer but Owasso carried a 33-26 advantage into halftime and worked it up to 42-31 by the final quarter.
After a Loni Culley layup put the Sandites in the hole by 13 points it looked like the hotly contested game would begin to work itself further in favor of the visitors, but then our two heroes of the night went on a run.
Holly Kersgieter went 1-of-2 from the line, then Johnson hit a two before Pennington went on a 6-0 run and the girls were right back in it at 44-40. Milton hit a two pointer and added the extra penalty shot, but Pennington responded with a two followed by a pair of free throws by Johnson.
Milton added her 13th point of the night to make the advantage 49-44. Mutiri missed a two point attempt that Owasso rebounded but Scott snagged a steal and sent it to Johnson for two.
Both teams were in the bonus as Mutiri fouled Culley on the floor with 1:22 left, but the Ram missed her first shot and Pennington rebounded and passed it to Johnson who sent it to Kersgieter in the corner. The freshman had zero coverage and it looked like the Sandites were about to tie the game, but the shot hit rim and there were no Sandites there to rebound it.
Culley was bringing it up court when Johnson managed to slap the ball away and into the ready hands of Isabella Regalado who sent it back to Johnson on her way for the layup to close it down to 49-48 with 0:53 left.
Culley got payback with a layup of her own 21 seconds later and the return was in the hands of Cierra Scott, one of the best three-point shooters in the game. Owasso applied a full court press and Skalnik made off with the ball for a game-clinching two-pointer and despite being outscored 17-9 in the last period, the Rams held on to enough of their lead for a 53-48 final score.
Sand Springs has but one game left in the regular season and is currently fifth in Frontier Valley Conference standings with a 6-7 record in the talent-packed league. The girls will take on Jenks Friday night whom they already have a 64-43 road win over from a month ago. After that it's Regionals next Thursday as the Lady Sandites travel to Sapulpa to take on the Union Redskins who they have two double-digit wins over this season. If they add a third win they'll advance to the Area tournament regardless of the outcome of the Regional finals.