Thomas went to its bag of tricks and pulled out a play it rarely uses near the end of a ballgame. Of course, the Terriers have not been in too many scenarios this basketball season where it needed a clutch bucket.
Kaila Royalty splashed a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left in the game Thursday afternoon, and No. 7-ranked Thomas trimmed No. 5 Tonkawa 38-35 in the first round of the Class 2A Girls State Basketball Tournament at Abe Lemons Arena. Thomas (23-1) advanced to Friday's 7:30 p.m. semifinals vs. Fairview at the Big House on the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds but only after the Terriers' “skip play” was executed to perfection.
Thomas returned from a timeout with hopes of avoiding overtime — especially since Tonkawa (27-2) has been so resilient during the postseason. The Bucs made their first girls state basketball tournament in school history by winning twice in regionals by one point and one area game in overtime. So Thomas preferred to avoid a five-minute OT session.
The Terriers got the job done.
Keela Hamar drew two defenders near Thomas' bench, but she managed to heave a cross-court pass over four outstretched arms to a wide-open Royalty in the corner. The senior immediately launched the basketball, which cleanly ripped the cords for the deciding trey.
“We executed that play just right,” Thomas coach Jay Wood said.
Tonkawa inbounded the ball, sprinted over the midcourt stripe and called time with 0.5 seconds left.
Jamie Gibson, an exceptional sophomore who finished with six points and four rebounds, intercepted Tonkawa's inbounds pass to send Thomas to the semis a second consecutive season. Thomas is in its 18th state tournament with six gold balls and five silver balls inside the school trophy case in southwestern Oklahoma.
“That play worked to perfection,” said Royalty, who finished with nine points, all coming on 3-pointers. “I got chills when it went in. Those last seconds seemed like they lasted forever.”
Casi Cornell led Thomas with 12 points and five rebounds.
Taylor Mcareavey, a 5-foot-10 junior, had 12 points two rebounds and two blocked shots for Tonkawa. She gave the Bucs a nine-point lead in the second quarter, before Thomas started its comeback.