Faced with the chance to hit a game-winning free throw Thursday against El Reno, Piedmont's Sarah Parker didn't feel the slightest bit of anxiety.
“There was no nervousness at all,” Parker said. “I was pumped. It was definitely an adrenaline rush.”
The free throws wound up being the easy part.
With the game tied at 50 with seven seconds left, El Reno missed a 3-pointer and the 6-foot-1 Parker was there to pull down the rebound.
With a trio of El Reno players crowded around her under the basket, Parker was fouled with 0.8 seconds left, sending her to the free-throw line.
“I went crazy,” Parker said. “I started sprinting down the court to shoot the free throws. I couldn't wait.”
Parker, who's shooting better than 90 percent at the free-throw line this season, calmly sank both, sending the Class 5A No. 7 Wildcats to a 52-50 win.
Parker finished with 26 points, earning The Oklahoman's girls basketball player of the week honors.
Two days earlier in a 56-33 win over Guthrie, Parker scored 22.
The senior was expected to shoulder much of the scoring load for Piedmont this season but since earlier this month, she's had to shoulder even more of the burden.
Parker was the Wildcats leading returning scorer, averaging nearly 15 points per game as a junior.
But Ashley Almond had been a big part of that success as well.
Almond, the Wildcats' point guard, averaged 10 points a game and did plenty to set up Parker.
Plus, Parker could hardly imagine playing basketball without Almond on the court with her.
The two had played together since fifth grade and gave Piedmont a dynamic inside-outside punch.
But when Almond went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the first week of January, Parker had to bear more of the load.
“It's been hard without her out there because she's had such an impact for us,” Parker said. “We've tried to focus on what's ahead, though, and not what we'd be like with her out there.
“She's helping with that. She's acting like a coach now that she's hurt.”
Parker and the Wildcats play in the Buckle of the Wheatbelt Tournament beginning Thursday in Kingfisher. Piedmont plays McLoud in the opening round.
The field also includes Class A No. 1-ranked Okarche and Class 4A No. 7 Heritage Hall.
“We have a pretty good chance of winning it,” Parker said. “We're playing well right now and we really want this.”