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Owasso (Oklahoma) girls continuing remarkable turnaround with triumphant return to state: Buck's Ballpark

In first trip to state tournament since 2018, Lady Rams down Putnam City North

NORMAN, OKLAHOMA - A season ago, they finished with a record barely above .500.

Before Wednesday, they went six years without a state tournament appearance. 

But Wednesday evening, the Owasso Lady Rams continued their remarkable turnaround season with a 6A quarterfinal win against Putnam City North, 54-38, at the Lloyd Noble Center. It was the Lady Rams’ first state tournament game since 2018, when they won the whole thing.

Oklahoma high school girls basketball: Live score, OSSAA 6A state quarterfinals updates recap (3/6/2024)

“That’s something that we’ve been talking about back in June, was 2018 was the last time we were here, we won it all and our seniors were sixth-graders when that happened, so they have vivid memories of watching those girls hold up a gold ball,” said Kendall Woodward, Owasso’s second-year coach. “So they’ve been talking about this for a while of being so focused on getting back here and really ending their high school careers in a really memorable way.”

Making it to state still seemed far-fetched even back in the summer. Owasso went 13-12 in Woodward’s debut season, and of course, the state tournament drought has already been documented.

But the players, in particular the senior class, believed the turnaround was going to be in store sooner than most people realized.

“I think having people like (senior guard) Seldon Stover back on the court this year; we didn’t have her her junior year and that was hard because we lost a lot of the scoring and the ball handling,” said 6-foot-1 senior post Makenna Yokley. “Then (5-10 freshman post) Madi Hill coming in and she’s done an amazing job as a freshman, so having her has been a huge help to this lineup.

“We have more options than we did last year.”

That was evident in Wednesday’s win. Yokley and senior guard Alex McGarrah each had 14 points apiece to lead the Lady Rams. Hill added 12 points along with nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

But Stover hit two free throws late that helped Owasso clinch the win. Junior guard Jayelle Austin scored three points in a row - the latter receiving a pass down low from Yokley for the finish - after PC North got to within five with three minutes left.

Another senior, Kynlie Wilson, hit two first-half 3-pointers - one which tied the score at 11-all after the Lady Rams dug an early 8-3 hole.

“It feels great; there’s a lot of seniors so we all want it bad,” McGarrah said. “Everything that we have done has led up to this, so it feels really, really awesome that we got it.

“We all stayed together, we all do a lot of team stuff together. Our practices are very difficult, we don’t slack off a lot in practice, and we all want it bad this year.”

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Woodward was also quick to give credit to her assistant coaches - Jasmine Crisp, Rachel Skalnik and Tim Beacham - for their role in the team’s turnaround.

“They watch film, they know exactly like who the top players are on the other team, and then when we go through our scout stuff, they are coaching them up so well, so our assistants do a fantastic job of providing the information that is valuable for them to know,” Woodward said.

With Thursday’s win, Owasso (22-5) extended its current winning streak to nine straight. Woodward remarked the team’s defense has been another reason for the Lady Rams’ surge. In that nine-game win streak, Owasso has allowed 40 or more points just twice.

The streak was highlighted by a 34-31 win in the area championship game against a Choctaw squad that had been undefeated up to that point.

“Going into February, I feel like we’ve finally hit our stride of playing cohesive, everybody really buying into their role and supporting each other, and that’s the product that we get when we’re all on the same page and we’re sharing the ball,” Woodward said. “We had three different people in double figures and we love that; we love having three people in double figures instead of just one person with all the points, so great job.”

Wednesday, Owasso held the Lady Panthers to 14 points after halftime, as PC North missed all nine field-goal attempts in the third quarter and shot just 28.3 percent for the game.

“We’ve said it now for the past three weeks, that our defense is what makes us dangerous, so we like to focus on that end, and then those 3’s and that offensive side is just icing on the cake, so I thought that they played really an incredible, complete game,” Woodward said. “It was all back-and-forth all the first half, and then I think we settled in, maybe gained our composure a little bit more and got back to playing our style that is attacking, kick-outs, reverse, re-attack, so it was good to see them play the way they’ve been playing all year and be comfortable with that.”

With Owasso’s state tournament absence until Wednesday, the Lady Rams are garnering more attention, already enhancing an athletic program that has seen the football and baseball teams win state titles recently. Then there’s the Owasso boys basketball team, which won its state quarterfinal game earlier on Wednesday and has been one of the big favorites to win 6A all season long.

Oklahoma 6A boys quarterfinals: Owasso takes care of business against Norman High, 60-48

So on Friday, the possibility is there for Owasso’s teams to make it to Championship Saturday with wins in its respective semifinal games.

“Oh, it would be pretty special,” Yokley said. “It’s never happened; our boys have never won a state championship and we have won two, so it would be super cool for both of us to take it this year.”

The Lady Rams have a daunting task though, playing their semifinal against Putnam City West, a team that has been one of the heavy favorites to win 6A all season and have lost just once all season.

But in a season full of surprises, the Lady Rams believe they have at least one more up their sleeve.

“We’re very happy (winning on Wednesday), but we still have more to go,” McGarrah said. “Not done yet.”

Owasso photo by Emily Hill Photography

-- Buck Ringgold | | @SBLiveOK