STERLING — The Lady Tigers knew they had to win the Class A regional tournament last week, or the season was over. With that in mind, Sterling reeled off three consecutive wins, including a revenge victory in the tourney finals.
First, Sterling knocked off Cordell 54-40, followed by a semifinal victory over Coyle 66-42, and then exacted some payback against Velma-Alma 53-44 in the championship matchup. Velma-Alma gave Sterling its only playoff loss in the district tournament, meaning the Lady Tigers could not lose another game in the double-elimination playoff format.
Sterling, 22-6, has not been ranked in the top 20 at any point this season.
The title game against Velma-Alma stayed close until the fourth quarter, when Sterling exploded for 22 points and held Velma-Alma to only 11. Velma-Alma led at halftime 23-22 and maintained a slim 33-31 advantage after three quarters.
However, Sterling unleased its offense in the final eight minutes, as Ava Alexander and Ashlyn Clift combined for 12 points to lead the Lady Tigers. Alexander finished the game with 15 points, followed by Clift with 14 and Emma Nunley with 10.
As a result, Sterling played No. 18 Okeene in the first round of the Area Tournament Thursday at Shawnee High School. However, the final score was not available at press time. Sterling must win the Area Tournament to move on to the Class A State Tournament next week.
Sterling used a strong second-quarter performance, outscoring Cordell 17-6 to lead 29-18 at halftime. Defensively, the Lady Tigers held Cordell to six points in the second and third quarters to mount a lead they would never give up.
Clift led Sterling in scoring with 15 points, followed by Morgan Curry with 12 and Alexander with 10.
In the semifinal game against Coyle, the Lady Tigers used a strong offensive performance in the first half, scoring 18 points in the first and second quarters to lead 36-24 at intermission.
Sterling outscored Coyle 30-18 in the second half to leave no doubt about the outcome. Nunley led all Sterling scorers with 22 points, followed by Clift with 12.
Curry and Alexander each contributed nine points to the winning effort. As a team, the Lady Tigers connected on nine three-point buckets, including three each from Clift and Curry.