CLAREMORE — The Kilpatrick Turnpike between Mustang and Tulsa will have a familiar bus burning rubber down it this week as the Lady Broncos travel to Tulsa for the 2019 State Basketball Championship Tournament.
“It feels really good. We went my sophomore year and that was the greatest feeling ever. We lost first round, but this year this is a really special group. So, I know we can go further,” said senior Cur’Tiera Haywood.
After a 49-34 loss to Moore in the regional championship Mustang had to battle through the consolation bracket in Area at Claremore High School.
“We always tell them we aren’t going to weary,” said head coach Kevin Korstjens.
The Lady Broncos battled Ponca City in the first game of Area and pulled out a 51-50 victory over the Lady Wildcats to advance to the consolation championship.
In the consolation championship the Lady Broncos were paired against Booker T. Washington.
The game was a tight battle throughout the first half and the halftime score was 20-20.
In the third quarter Booker T. Washington jumped out to a lead and stretched it to a thirteen-point lead at one time.
Mustang chipped away at the lead gradually until it had closed the lead to four points at the end of the third-quarter when Booker T. led 34-30.
The Lady Hornets extended their lead early in the third quarter to seven points.
Mustang closed the Hornets’ gap to four points with less than two minutes remaining, and that is when excitement ensued.
“They could have hung their heads and thought, ‘Coach we need a miracle.’ Or hung their heads and thought it wasn’t meant to be but dadgum you have to love kids that just scrap like that,” Korstjens said.
With seven seconds left on the clock the Lady Hornets led Mustang 39-38 and the Lady Broncos had possession under their own goal.
Ellise Foreman hit a wide-open Kate Niehues under the basket as the Hornets’ defense closed on Haywood.
Niehues put up a shot that was blocked by a defender and Booker T. Washington recovered possession and was fouled with 3.1-seconds remaining.
A bench player for the Hornets got excited and lost track of time due to the emotions and entered the field of play, which led to a technical foul.
But due to the foul on the Broncos the Hornets had a one-and-one opportunity at the line to extend the lead with 3.1-seconds.
The Lady Hornet missed the front end of the free throws and gave Mustang an opportunity to tie and even take the lead at the charity stripe.
Haywood stepped to the line, looked at the rim, dipped her knees, shot and swished the first shot.
The energy rose and the intensity magnified with the lead on the line as Haywood stepped up for her second. The moment didn’t get to the Quinnipiac signee as she found nothing but the bottom of the net on the second one to give the Broncos a 40-39 lead and possession.
“I just knew that I had to make them. I work on that a lot, just making myself calm. I was literally just talking to myself like, ‘T, you got this. You know you can make free-throws,’” Haywood said.
The Lady Broncos got the ball inbounds and found Haywood who was fouled with .7-seconds sending her to the line.
Haywood hit the first attempt and missed the second, which Booker T. Washington rebounded and called a timeout down two with .3-seconds remaining.
After the timeout the Hornets tried a full-court pass and couldn’t convert on the attempt sending Mustang to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons with a 41-39 victory.
“We were all just so happy. Like I said this team is so special. So, just all going together is just the greatest feeling ever. Everyone is so emotional, and I just loved it,” Haywood said.
Mustang will face the No. 1 team in the state Putnam City West Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Tulsa Memorial High School.