Reduced to tears...again
Myers makes good on vow, leads Lady Jackets back to state
The tears welled up in Emily Myers’ eyes when Kingfisher won the area consolation championship in 2022.
The Lady Jackets completed the unlikely gauntlet of five wins in six days to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2009.
All five of those wins came with Myers on the bench, a brace on her knee after tearing her ACL in the team’s loss in the regional opener to Woodward.
Just days later, she had to continue watching from the bench as KHS was defeated by Weatherford on the floor of State Fair Arena.
The tears rained down Myers’ cheeks again last Saturday night in Noble.
And she made sure of it. KHS is headed back to the state tournament after a 46-37 overtime victory against Inola in their Class 4A area consolation title game.
Down by 10 midway through the third quarter, the Lady Jackets stormed back, got a game-tying shot in the final seconds of regulation and then dominated the overtime to win their third elimination game in as many days.
KHS is in state for the 27th time in its storied history, this despite losing 59 percent of the scoring from last year’s team.
“This group has just bought into everything we’ve been doing even back to last year,” said head coach Taylor Young, who has now coached the Lady Jackets to the state tournament in each of her two seasons at the helm.
“I told them this program is going to be about us. It doesn’t matter who we graduate, who we lose. We’re just going to reload every year.” This year’s reload consisted of just two seniors.
Yet the team is 23-5 and ranked fourth in the class.
But unlike in the program’s 26th appearance in the state tournament, Myers will be playing on The Big House floor this time around.
“The thing that really motivated me through the last three games we played was remembering the anger and frustration I felt when I couldn’t be a part of it last year,” said the senior.
“I told myself I wasn’t going home until I got to step on the court in the Big House.”
She seemingly willed it into existence.
KHS trailed 26-16 halfway through the third quarter as Inola focused its defensive efforts on limiting the touches and shots of Peyton Walker and Addy Matthews.
It was working and the rest of the team was struggling to keep up.
Then Abbie Myers, Emily’s freshman sister, knocked down a bucket while being fouled. Though she didn’t complete the three-point play, it appeared to be the spark KHS needed.
Emily later followed with a three-point play and by the end of the quarter, the Lady Jackets were within 26-23.
The elder Myers took over in the fourth.
She remained aggressive on defense and attacked on offense.
Myers scored seven points in the fourth as Kingfisher found itself down 34-32 with the ball in the waning moments.
With time running out, Matthews saw her opportunity. The team’s leading scorer had nary a point, but finally found herself open for a 13-foot jumper with just seconds remaining.
And she missed. She was also left untouched.
The junior followed her shot, grabbed the rebound and scored the game-tying bucket with just four seconds to play.
It took her 31 minutes, 56 seconds to score, but Matthews made the points count.
“It’s definitely frustrating being face guarded and not being able to get open, and that’s something I just have to get better at during tougher games,” Matthews said. “But everyone else was stepping up big and I finally decided I had to find a way somehow to get to that rim because I wasn’t ready for it to all be over yet.”
It wasn’t. Inola, which sent KHS to the consolation bracket a week before with an overtime win in the regional championship, scored first in the extra frame.
But Matthews answered right back with a driving bucket to tie it up yet again.
Then, with 2:00 left in overtime, Raegan Snider drove past Brooke Walker for a layup to give Kingfisher a lead it wouldn’t lose.
Walker and Matthews combined to go 8 for 8 from the free throw line as KHS pulled away.
Free throws were a major factor.
Kingfisher made 20 of 26 attempts on the night. Myers was 8 of 11, Walker made all six of her attempts and Matthews connected on her four tries.
Meanwhile, Inola made only 8 of 18 attempts.
Kingfisher outscored the Lady Longhorns 30-11 over the final 12 minutes of regulation and the overtime.
“We talked about discipline and toughness all year long. That was going to have to be our motto if we wanted to get back to the state tournament and win some basketball games,” Young said.“I think the discipline and toughness reared its head tonight.”
The Lady Jackets were 19 of 21 from the charity stripe in Friday’s 58-48 victory against Oologah.
“We’re going to struggle to score at times with a young group, so I knew free throws were going to be important. We focused on that from Day 1,” Young said.
“They didn’t necessarily like the running that came with it when they missed them in practice, but it has paid off.”
On top of the stellar free throw shooting Friday, the Lady Jackets also connected on 11 3-pointers, eight of them in the first half.
Walker, Matthews and Myers made three apiece and scored 17, 16 and 15 points, respectively.
KHS had no 3-pointers Saturday, but was 13 of 26 inside the arc.
The Lady Jackets held Inola to just 30 percent shooting.
Snider had six points and five rebounds. Matthews had all eight of her points in the fourth quarter and overtime. She also led the team with six rebounds.
Walker had 12 points while also limiting Miller Weast to 12 points on 4 of 12 shooting.
Weast had taken over the game on both ends during the regional final as she scored 20 points, including the game winner.
When Kingfisher needed someone to step up and carry the scoring load, it was Myers.
She finished with 14 points.
“Emily had a great three days. She’s really stepped up and been such a leader for our team,” Young said. “It’s unbelievable to see how she’s responded coming off her ACL injury last year.
“It stinks sitting over there on the sideline in the state tournament, having to watch when she was such a big piece of what we did just to get to that point.
“I’m so happy for her and I’m happy for the rest of the team.”
When the team exited the locker room, Myers found her parents - Jeff and Candyce Myers - waiting on her.
And, for the second straight year on the Saturday of area, Myers found herself crying.
“As I’m sure people could tell, it was very emotional,” she said.
This time, though, it was for a more gratifying reason.
“I made it a personal goal to give my all for my teammates so we could have a second shot at state,” she said.
“Knowing I got to help out in getting there this time was very empowering and rewarding.”