All signs pointed to Oak Grove playing for a state championship come Saturday night. The Lady Warriors started out hot against Murrah, who was playing without their leading scorer, in the Class 6A Semifinals.
But in the end, it simply wasn’t meant to be. Despite fighting back from a pair of double digit, second half deficits, Oak Grove’s season came to an end with a 43-37 loss on Wednesday to the Lady Mustangs.
“What I see out there is if they’re number one in the state, we’re number two,” Oak Grove head coach Mark Swindle said. “We had a chance. We go up 6-0 the first of the game. We just didn’t give the effort, and I don’t know why.
“I thought we had them ready, but we just got to a point tonight where we…I don’t know. I can’t even describe it.”
Swindle’s Lady Warriors jumped out to that aforementioned 6-0 lead in the first quarter following back-to-back three-pointers from Lekera Hughes and Jazmin Grayson. The Lady Mustangs answered with an 11-4 scoring run to end the quarter, taking an 11-10 lead into the second.
Murrah carried that momentum into the quarter, winning a low-scoring period, 7-4, in taking an 18-14 lead into halftime.
That advantage ballooned all the way into the early stages of the fourth period, as the Lady Mustangs led by as many as 13 points at 33-20. But Oak Grove wasn’t quite done yet.
“It was just amazing. We started to make some free throws,” Swindle said. “We look up, and it’s 33-31.”
But almost with a snap of a finger, Murrah pushed the lead back to double digits. Oak Grove made one more last-ditch effort in pulling to within six points late, only to come up a win short of a state title berth.
“I’m proud of the girls for getting this far and all that. When you have a chance to do something really good and we had a chance,” Swindle said. “It’s not like we got blown out. It wasn’t anything they overwhelmed us with. We just didn’t make enough plays all the way around. I don’t know what else to say about it.”
In her final game in an Oak Grove uniform, Lekera Hughes finished with 14 points to lead the Lady Warriors. It was only her third game back after suffering a torn ACL before the season.
“I didn’t think there was a shot that she would play at all. For her to contribute and not come out of the game with a four and a half month recovery versus six, it’s amazing,” Swindle added. “God was with her, and she’s a really, really strong person. I’m excited to see her future in college.”
Jazmin Grayson added 10 points for the Lady Warriors, who finish their season at 23-7.