CLAREMORE, Okla. (Jan. 4, 2014) – After a poor shooting outing by her team two days earlier, Oklahoma Christian coach Stephanie Findley shook up her lineup a bit for Saturday’s game at Rogers State and gave freshman McKenzie Stanford her first career start.
That move paid immediate dividends. Stanford went 6 of 7 from the field and scored a career-high 19 points, Sydney Hill added 22 points and six assists and the Lady Eagles pulled away in the final minutes for a 90-77 win at the Claremore Expo Center.
It was OC’s first true road win since last Feb. 2, when the Lady Eagles won at Arkansas-Fort Smith and it improved OC’s all-time record against Rogers State to 4-8. The Hillcats had won the last five games in the series, when the schools both were members of the NAIA’s Sooner Athletic Conference.
“It’s nice to finally get one,” Findley said. “I didn’t realize it had been that long. I know we’ve been on the road a lot this year. We’ve had some neutral wins but not any road wins, so it feels good to get this one under our belt.”
That it came on the heels of a 59-55 loss at Arkansas-Fort Smith also pleased Findley.
“We felt like we kind of gave that one to them,” she said. “We didn’t shoot well. We just didn’t play well. We feel like we’re a better team than that. I think we came out today and executed a lot better than we did over at Fort Smith.”
For much of the game, OC (6-6, 2-5 Heartland Conference) and Rogers State (4-10, 1-7) were evenly matched. The game featured 16 lead changes and 12 ties and no more than seven points separated the teams for the first 35½ minutes.
OC led 33-30 at halftime but the Hillcats used a 14-2 run early in the second half to go up 44-37 on a three-point play with 16:03 left by Katy Harsen, who scored 20 points.
The Lady Eagles answered with a 13-3 run, with Mica Havens’ 3-pointer putting OC back ahead. Hill’s 13-foot jumper made it 50-47 with 11:48 left. Rogers State responded and again took the lead, with a layup by Clarissa Cannon (21 points, nine rebounds) making it 60-56 with 9 minutes left, but that was the Hillcats’ last field goal for more than seven minutes.
OC took advantage. Logan McKee, coming off the bench for the first time this season, hit a 3-pointer, then followed with a layup to start a 16-4 run for the Lady Eagles. A 17-foot jumper by Hill gave OC its largest lead of the game to that point at 74-66 with 4:11 left.
The Lady Eagles went 12 of 16 from the free-throw line in the final 3:33 to seal the win. OC hit 34 of its 44 free-throw attempts (77.3 percent) and shot 43.6 percent from the field, including 53.6 percent in the second half.
“The second half we came out and really started knocking things down and we were purposeful in what shots we were looking for,” Findley said. “I felt like the girls understood that they were trying to get good shots and then knock them down when they got them.”
McKee and Krista Stevens each scored 12 points for OC while Roz Hamilton had 11 rebounds, helping the Lady Eagles post a 40-38 edge on the boards. Stanford’s effectiveness inside allowed Hamilton to focus on power forward duties.
“McKenzie is capable of that,” Findley said. “She is a really good player as a freshman and still has a lot to learn, but she can play down low and she can play on the perimeter. She’s multifaceted as far as that goes and we can use her in different spots. We just decided to put her down low and take some of the beating off of Roz.”
In addition to Stanford, senior guard Talor Ward also received her first start and Emma Gade started her second straight game for the Lady Eagles.
Mikaila Newton added 17 points for the Hillcats while Kami Bunch had 10 assists.