TULSA — Ashley Gibson didn’t need to carry the offensive load early.
But in the fourth quarter when Deer Creek needed its offensive leader to take control, Gibson did.
The senior scored six points during a 9-0 stretch in the fourth quarter that put the Class 5A No. 2 Deer Creek ahead for good in its 48-43 win over Tulsa East Central.
Deer Creek (26-2) will play the winner of Friday afternoon’s Carl Albert/Shawnee game at 6 p.m. Saturday for the title.
The Antlers are familiar with both teams, having beat Carl Albert twice and dropping an early season game against Shawnee.
“Either way, it’s huge for us but we’d like to play Shawnee again,” Gibson said.
Tulsa East Central’s season ends 19-9. The Lady Cardinals had been runners-up in each of the last three years.
Gibson found herself in foul trouble early and stayed on the bench for 11 minutes during the first half as Dakota Vann and Bayli Blanchard helped keep the Antlers in the game.
“It was a little frustrating early in the game but I was still confident,” Gibson said.
Vann led Deer Creek with 17 points while Blanchard added 15 and Gibson 11.
“For our team to battle and go out and keep the game tied at halftime was big for us,” Deer Creek coach Totsy Manning said. “Late, we knew Ashley had the mismatch there with a guard on her so we took advantage of it.
“She’s great with her back to the basket.”
Deer Creek is looking for its third title in school history. The Antlers also won in 2006 and 1966.
Darreion Clark led East Central with 16 points. Ariel Williams added 13.
The game was back and forth throughout, with the lead changing hands 10 times and no team leading by more than five until Gibson’s shot with just more than a minute left put the Antlers up by six, 43-37.
East Central briefly pulled within two with 33 seconds to go but Whitney Jones hit a pair of free throws to keep the Cardinals from coming any closer and Blanchard pulled down a critical rebound in the closing seconds to seal the win.