By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
KANSAS CITY, Mo. –
As the final seconds ticked away, Sydney Carter had the basketball, a smile and a hard-earned victory. Sometimes it just works out the way it should.
Carter made a play-to-the-end steal on an Oklahoma inbound to gain Texas A&M’s final possession. With a 13-point lead, there wasn’t much to do for Carter than hold the ball and celebrate.
"It would have been better if it was the championship game," said Carter, who scored all 19 of her points in the second half. "It was a relief to come out with a win against a team like Oklahoma."
No. 2 seed Texas A&M’s 81-68 victory over No. 3 seed Oklahoma Friday put the Aggies (27-4) into the title game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Championship. Coach Gary Blair’s team is the first Big 12 team to reach four consecutive championship games.
The Aggies will face top-seeded Baylor (30-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Municipal Auditorium. The Lady Bears won at College Station 63-60 and 67-58 in Waco.
The Sooners (21-11) might have been Baylor’s opponent if not for Carter. The 5-6 junior played seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. In the second half, Texas A&M’ 54-41 lead slipped to 54-48 and the Aggies had turned it over on three consecutive possessions.
Time for Sydney Carter. Over the final 10:20, Carter scored 17 of her team’s final 27 points as the Aggies pulled away from the gritty Sooners. Carter made three consecutive 3-pointers and a pull-up jumper to make it 67-52 with 7:37 to play. That’s 11 points in less than three minutes.
"In the first half, I was in foul trouble," Carter said. "In the second half, I took better shots and they left me open. I just knocked the shots down in the second half.
"Being in 'the zone' like that it’s like an out of body experience. I’m a pretty emotional kid out there."
Oklahoma freshman center Nicole Griffin had 12 points and eight rebounds. Her presence in the low post helped limit Texas A&M’s Danielle Adams, the Big 12’s top scorer. Adams finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds but didn’t have a second-half field goal.
"We played awfully hard," Aggies coach Gary Blair said. "The (quarterfinal) games on Wednesday took a lot out of both teams. The key for us is to stop waiting on Danielle to score 40 and have balanced scoring."
"I started calling Carter’s number and she hit those five in a row."
Oklahoma was 4-of-19 from 3-point range and committed 20 turnovers. Sophomore Whitney Hand had 21 and senior Danielle Robinson had 19 points and seven rebounds. The Sooners cut the A&M lead to 75-68 with 1:57 left but the deficit was too big and the remaining time too small.
We knew Sydney Carter could score but did we expect her to score 19? No," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "She killed us in the second half. We didn’t have an answer for her when she went on that tear there."