Deer Creek coach Totsy Manning had a simple message for her players at halftime Friday afternoon.
Trailing Class 2A No. 1 Millwood by three, Manning wanted her players to hang tough with the physicality of the game.
The fifth-ranked Antlers did that and more, pulling away behind a stingy defense in the second half for a 44-31 victory in the semifinals of the Bethany Classic to set up a matchup with Class 4A No. 5 Harrah.
“I told our players that we've got to step up and be gritty,” Manning said. “We're not going to play dirty, we're not going to play that (physical) style of basketball, we're going to play our style of game, but we're not going to let a team who plays like that beat us because we're warriors.”
To start the third, senior Whitney Jones immediately tied the game with a 3-pointer and ignited an 8-0 run to give the Antlers a lead they never relented.
Millwood was held to just 11 points in the second half, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
For Jones and the Antlers, the win makes up for losing to the Falcons in the championship of the tournament last season.
“We definitely wanted to prove a point, and I think we did,” said Jones, who finished with 17 points. “I think we were more prepared and I think we came in with a better attitude about it.”
Deer Creek wasn't necessarily prepared for the physicality. But Manning was pleased to beat a well-regarded team like the Falcons.
“We knew they have a lot of respect in this tournament and a lot of respect in the basketball community,” Manning said. “We knew we would have to battle every single possession that we were out here and our girls never backed down.”
HILL CATCHES FIRE, HARRAH PULLS AWAY FROM PIEDMONT
Harrah's Darian Hill wasn't about to let a half-court shot come in the way against Piedmont like it did last season in the Bethany Classic.
The senior guard instead scored 11 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, breaking a 31-31 tie and igniting a 52-37 victory against the Wildcats.
“It's really big,” Hill said. “Since we came short with them from a half-court shot last year, we just really wanted it this year.”
Hill opened the quarter with a layup to start a 10-0 run that put the game out of reach. During that span, she also made two 3-pointers.
“It's just the excitement in this place,” she said.
Hayden Priddy had nine points for Piedmont.
BARTLESVILLE ADVANCES, BEHAR OK
One day after watching a teammate suffer a seizure on the court at the inaugural Putnam City Invitational, No. 9 Bartlesville advanced to the championship game with a 56-42 upset of No. 3 Southmoore.
The win came just hours after the Tulsa World reported that junior Rachel Behar was released from Integris Baptist Medical Center late Thursday night after undergoing tests, receiving IVs and seizure medicine.
Behar stayed in the team hotel and was hoping to attend Friday's semifinal game, where Bruins' 6-foot-3 junior Hailey Tucker put on a show with 32 points in the victory.
Bartlesville will play Tulsa Union, which beat Putnam City, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Tulsa Washington and Sapulpa will play in the championship of the Lady Jaguars Classic in Westmoore at 6 p.m. after the Hornets beat Westmoore 42-35 and the Chieftains beat Carl Albert 47-30. ... The trio of Bailey Taylor, Kelsey Simmons and McKenzie Cooper combined for 32 of Shawnee's 45 points in a 45-33 victory against Guthrie in the East Central Classic. On Saturday, Shawnee will play Choctaw, which beat Ada 59-35.