By Mickey Winfield: Freedom Newspapers
ELIDA — The Fort Sumner Vixens led nearly the entire game Friday night, but needed clutch free-throw shooting to beat Elida 60-58 in overtime in the District 3-1A tournament championship.
“Any time you play Elida and a Dan Howard team, and you come out of an Elida gym (with a win), you’ve been blessed,” Fort Sumner coach Joel Wood said.
The third-seeded Vixens were 25-of-32 from the free-throw line, including 18-of-21 in the fourth period and in overtime.
“We practice the free throws an awful lot,” Wood said. “It hadn’t shown a bunch during the season. A lot of the games we lost in the season were because we couldn’t hit free throws down the stretch.”
The loss was Elida’s first at home this season.
“It’s a punch in the gut,” Elida senior Alicia Cross-Smith said. “We put in a lot of hours in the gym and tonight we didn’t really come with our heads together and it showed.”
Fort Sumner (17-8) led from the opening moments of the first quarter until the last 25 seconds of regulation. The Vixens’ largest lead of the game was 25-16 in the third period, but the top-seeded Lady Tigers (21-4) went on a 12-5 run to cut the deficit to two points going into the fourth period.
Eighth-grader Reavis Best sparked an Elida comeback that sent the game into overtime. Best scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. Cross-Smith hit one of two free throws to tie the game for the first time with 25 seconds left.
Senior Laurel Herrera gave the Vixens a four-point advantage in overtime, hitting two free throws with 10 seconds remaining.
“We dug ourselves a big hole there in the first half,” Howard said. “We mounted a great comeback and we had our chances but we just couldn’t put it away.”
Alex Owens led Fort Sumner with 19 points, including eight points in the fourth quarter followed by senior Kaylynn Johnson’s 13 points.
Sophomore Lindsey Smith led Elida with 14 points followed by Best’s 12. Freshman Shanna Anthony added 10 points.
“I just told (the girls) that they still have a shot to play for a state championship,” Howard said. “They’ve got to get their heads together and get ready to play.”