Finally, Anadarko broke the Vinita curse.
Anadarko had been ousted from the state tournament the past four years by Vinita but this time when the game was on the line, it was the Lady Warriors who made the plays down the stretch and left the tears for the Lady Hornets.
Second-ranked Anadarko defeated Vinita, 55-43, on Friday afternoon at State Fair Arena and advanced to Saturday's 12:15 p.m. girls' state championship game against top-ranked Fort Gibson, which earlier Friday downed Perkins-Tryon, 48-42.
“We're on the other end finally,” said Anadarko's star player, Lakota Bailey, who scored a team-high 19 points.
Anadarko led the entire game but Vinita rallied from a seven-point deficit to tie the contest, 37-37 with five minutes left on Kelli's Gibson's second consecutive three-point basket. Vinita seemed to have all the momentum, but Anadarko answered by scoring the next three buckets and dominated the final five minutes.
With the six-point lead, Anadarko was content to spread the floor and force Vinita to foul. The Lady Warriors scored their last dozen points from the free-throw line, hitting 12 of 14 from the charity stripe.
When Vinita tied the game, memories of those previous state tournament losses to the Lady Hornets started creeping in the minds of Anadarko's fans and players. But Bailey told her teammates to stay focused on the present and not the past.
“I told the team to keep their heads up and keep pushing, that we worked to hard to lose the game there,” she said. “It was all about heart. We had to keep playing hard.”
Beatty, who was 6 of 18 from the field, also snatched seven rebounds and had three steals. Her younger sister, Ashley, contributed 15 points with seven rebounds and four steals.
Gibson led Vinita, 25-4, with 19 points. Caitlyn Spurgeon added 10 points and seven rebounds. Morgan Grammer also scored 10 points for the Lady Hornets.
Anadarko head coach Jeff Zinn called the win a gut check for the Lady Warriors, now 28-1 on the season. Anadarko's only loss was to unbeaten Shawnee, the top-ranked team in Class 5A.
“We have had a lot better days offensively than what we had today,” Zinn said. “You got to credit Vinita's defense for that. We missed an awful lot of shots we hadn't been missing. It's nice to see us get tough at the end and battle out a win.”
Zinn is in his first year as Anadarko's sideline boss but admitted the Vinita jinx was on the minds of his squad entering the game.
“They had bad memories with their seasons ending to Vinita every year, but I don't think it had much to do with the game,” he said. “It was two teams fighting it out that both were very good. We happened to win out in the end.”