TULSA — Deer Creek coach Totsy Manning heard all the people telling her the Antlers couldn’t play man-to-man defense on Tulsa East Central. The Cardinals were too fast.
After playing man-to-man for 36 straight minutes — including overtime — Manning and the third-ranked Antlers had their second straight gold ball to prove those people wrong.
Deer Creek’s suffocating defense powered a 31-28 overtime victory over No. 2 East Central in the Class 5A girls state championship game Saturday afternoon at the Mabee Center.
“People told us you can’t man Tulsa East Central and we manned them all day,” Manning said. “I completely, 100 percent believe in our man defense. Our girls understand what we want to do. We’ve seen big players, guards who can slash to the basket. We know how to defend individual players, and what our team defense needs to be to shut people down.”
Tulsa East Central had been held under 40 only twice all season, never scoring less than 35 in a game before Saturday. Both teams shot below 25 percent for the game, though Deer Creek won the rebounding battle 44-32
The bulk of the Antlers’ scoring came from Dakota Vann, who had 17 points and 17 rebounds and played a key role as an active defender.
“We knew they had some big girls and some shooters, and we knew what we had to do to stop them,” said Vann, a 5-foot-11 junior. “On offense, we were a little rattled at what they were doing, because they’re faster than a lot of teams we played. But we got under control and it all fell into place. We did what we had to do.”
Bayli Blanchard added six points and six rebounds for the Antlers, while Whitney Jones and Abbey Renner had four points each. Renner hit a pair of key free throws with 44 seconds to go that ultimately turned out to be the decisive points.
Janee Arnold had 16 for Tulsa East Central and Sharayla Brown had 12, providing all the Cardinals’ points.
Defending last year’s title seemed like a tough climb for Deer Creek after starting the season 0-2, and losing four of their first 11 games.
But the Antlers lost just once in the last two months to claim another gold ball for the trophy case.
“Dakota got in there and got so many boards for us. She was able to score when we needed buckets,” Manning said. “There was just so much effort from everyone on the team. Every loose ball, we were diving for it. We just had lots of kids who played really smart with lots of effort. We knew we would be in for a battle from beginning to end.”
Still, don’t start talking about a three-peat yet.
“We just want to enjoy this one. Do you know how tough it is to actually get here?” Manning said with a laugh. “A three-peat would be tough. We might be moving up a class next year and that’ll be a whole different ballgame.
“Our kids have worked extremely hard and we’re just going to enjoy this one.”