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By Glen Miller
In a game that Guthrie coach Pete Papahronis called “a circus,” it was El Reno High School’s girls basketball team which came away with the big prize from a midway full of fouls, missed shots and zany free throw shooting.
Sophomore guard Sheridan Gray took an inbound pass near mid-court and dribbled across the Bluejays defense to score a backside layup with 13.2 seconds left as El Reno rallied for a 35-34 win to close out Suburban Conference play.
“I knew I had to step up and score. Coach drew up a play and we just had to execute it. The play was designed for me and if they stepped over to cover, Steve (Sierra Bellymule) was open for the 3-pointer.
“No one stepped over so I just kept going. I kept telling myself I had better put it up soft because I have a tendency too hard sometimes. I put it up soft and it went in and I said, ‘Thank you so much.’ I had missed two other game-winning shots so it was about time one went in,” said Gray.
The win over Guthrie, ranked No.13 in 5A, lifted the 20th-ranked Indians to 7-13 on the year and snapped a four-game losing streak. El Reno finished with a 4-8 record in league play and avenged an earlier 20-point loss to the Bluejays.
“If there is ever a team deserving to win a game after all the hard luck we have had, it’s us,” said EHS head coach Renie Whittern.
“I’m very proud of them.”
The game was a circus at times and the referees were the ring masters. There were 54 fouls whistled between the teams, with El Reno being tagged for 30. The Indians closed the game with two players with four fouls and only one bench player left.
Jentri Thompson fouled out of the game with 6:38 left and El Reno nursing a 28-26 lead. Alaney Karty followed at the 5:37 mark as Guthrie hit two free throws to tie the game at 28-all.
Post player Regan Owen fouled out with 4:20 to play as El Reno clung to a 31-29 lead.
Guthrie, which made 12 free throw attempts in the fourth period, took a 32-31 lead on a bonus shot with 3:23 to play. El Reno would get a 2-of-4 effort from the line by Bellymule to regain a one-point lead (33-32) with 1:38 left.
The Bluejays scored their only bucket of the fourth period out of 18 attempts with 1:21 left to take a 34-33 lead.
El Reno’s comeback hopes seemed doomed when it turned the ball over on a traveling violation with 58.1 seconds left. However, Guthrie took a shot along the baseline after milking the clock down to 22.3 seconds and the missed attempt was rebounded by Gray.
After Gray’s go-ahead bucket, Guthrie had one last shot attempt which was wide of the mark and Taleigh Davis ran down the loose rebound to secure the victory.
“It feels really good to get a win after some pretty close games,” said Gray. “It really was a circus. We had girls getting in foul trouble and fouling out, so we had to have a lot of different people step up. We were worried about having to finish the game with only four girls.”
El Reno ended the game hitting 7-of-22 shots from inside the arc for 32 percent, while connecting on 3-of-13 shots from the perimeter for 23 percent. The Indians were 12-of-22 from the free-throw line for 55 percent.
Guthrie was 9-of-39 (23 percent) from 2-point range and 1-of-6 from behind the arc. The Bluejays made 13-of-32 free throw attempts for 41 percent.
Owen led El Reno with a double-double after posting a line of 14 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. Gray followed with seven points and a rebound.
Sierra Bellymule added six points, two steals and a rebound. Davis followed with three points and three caroms, while Karty had two points and three rebounds.
Jaedin Veales logged two points and four rebounds to go along with a free throw and nine boards from Allora Bellymule. Thompson had a rebound before fouling out.