Skip to main content

Sapulpa (Oklahoma) stalwarts Tyla Heard, Taylor Bilby willing squad toward potential repeat: Buck's Ballpark

Seniors Heard and Bilby combined to score 46 points in Lady Chieftains' quarterfinal win

NORMAN, OKLAHOMA - Walking down the lengthy ramp to the court at the Lloyd Noble Center stirred some good flashbacks for a pair of Sapulpa players. 

The last time Lady Chieftain players Tyla Heard and Taylor Bilby sauntered down that ramp, they came back up that same ramp as state champions.

Thursday, in Sapulpa’s first appearance at the LNC following that epic 5A state title win against Holland Hall nearly a year ago, the Lady Chieftains got past a strong Midwest City Carl Albert squad, 63-47.

Oklahoma high school girls basketball: Live score, OSSAA 5A state quarterfinals updates recap (3/7/2024)

Heard and Bilby, perhaps the most experienced players on coach Darlean Calip’s squad as seniors and four-year players, led the way, combining to score 46 of those 63 points. The two Sapulpa stalwarts knew what it meant to return to the Lloyd Noble Center court after winning the gold ball there the previous time.

“It kind of feels magical just because of what happened last year and I think since we know what that feels like, that’s what we’re striving to get and we’re in a great program that knows what winning feels like and we strive for nothing less than victory,” said Heard, a 6-foot post.

Bilby, a 5-7 guard, set an early tone for her squad by opening the game with back-to-back 3-pointers. She ended up with five treys on the day as part of her 20-point performance.

“I was doing really good,” Bilby said. “I think we both know what it takes to win.”

However, perhaps the biggest 3 that Bilby shot came midway through the fourth quarter and the Lady Chieftains hanging on to a four-point lead, 49-45. Bilby got the ball on the left wing and let it fly.

It hit nothing but net, and the shot also ignited an 11-0 run that allowed Sapulpa to eventually get the win.

“When I shot that, I knew it was going in,” Bilby said.

Sapulpa guard Taylor Bilby 

Sapulpa guard Taylor Bilby 

Calip knows the caliber of players that Heard and Bilby are, how they complement one another with a strong inside-outside game and that they know how to win come crunch time.

“This is their fourth year and that plays a huge role,” Calip said. “The huge part of the success of a team is just having that steady foundation that the younger kids can look over and say, ‘Hey, they’re calm and they’re OK, so we’re going to be all right.’”

And Heard and Bilby were definitely A-OK to allow Sapulpa to play again on Friday. Heard led all scorers with 26 points and she got a double-double with 10 rebounds. The two also combined to go 14-of-26 from the field.

“We felt like Tyla had some of a mismatch defensively and we wanted to capitalize on that, even if there was with three or four possessions, but we were able to do it quite a bit (Thursday), and yes, Taylor’s been hitting big 3’s for us all year and she did the same thing (Thursday),” Calip said.

The two - along with fellow senior Shay Koch have won two state titles in three seasons at Sapulpa - have also done their part to indoctrinate their younger teammates on the Lady Chieftain way.

“We had to be leaders a lot more this year because (the younger players) really don’t know what it’s like to be under the spotlight and don’t know what it feels like to win, so we have to mentor them and push them to be great because that’s what we’re striving for,” Heard said.

But while she had to get the underclassmen up to speed, Heard was undergoing another big adjustment. She had to learn how to play without her big sister.

Stailee Heard graduated from Sapulpa last season and is now playing at Oklahoma State. But not before ending her Lady Chieftain career with one of the most memorable plays in school history, a shot as time expired to beat Holland Hall in that 5A title game last March, which also capped a 41-point performance.

Heard Mentality: Sisters Stailee and Tyla Heard determined to lead Sapulpa (Oklahoma) to more gold 

Tyla Heard remarked that, indeed, things were drastically different not having Stailee around this season.

“For sure,” Tyla Heard said. “I’ve played with her my entire life and I think the biggest thing is I’ve looked for her a lot whenever I was on the court.

“Now, I’m the one that’s on the court and I think that was the biggest adjustment for me, just stepping up and knowing that, instead of looking for someone else, I have to go do it by myself and be more aggressive and do everything more.”

The Lady Chieftains (22-6) are also starting to hit their stride at the best possible time. Including Thursday’s win, they have won 13 of their last 15 ballgames, with the only two losses coming to the same team - Tulsa Rogers - which lost in overtime to Coweta in another 5A quarterfinal on Thursday.

“Our schedule has been really tough; every team that we lost to is in the state tournament, and so that kind of speaks to the volume of this strength of schedule,” Calip said. “That’s one of the things I try to do, is I want to play the best, to prepare us for games like this in this playoff season.

“We’ve had a few bumps, but that’s a growing process. I’ve never been a coach that likes to go undefeated because you need to experience some adversity and see how your kids are going to respond and they’ll see how their teammates are going to respond.”

And respond they have. Sapulpa also did a tremendous job keeping the Lady Titans from getting the key baskets, as they made 4-of-11 shots from the field in the fourth quarter and were 3-of-13 from 3-point range the entire game.

That kind of defense is what it will take for the Lady Chieftains to get the chance to repeat, observed Bilby.

“I would say defense, and off the court, we need to stay level-headed and not get too high or not get too low and just stay steady,” she said.

Tyla Heard added the experience she and Bilby brings to the court can also pay off this weekend.

“Everyone underestimated us at the beginning of the year because we didn’t have Stailee any more, and I think that’s something we’re also trying to prove, especially I’ve been trying to prove that,” Tyla Heard said. “We’re a good team no matter who is on it.”

Friday night, they’re going back down the ramp at the LNC for the 5A semifinal against Tulsa Booker T. Washington. Heard, Bilby and the rest of the Lady Chieftains are hoping the walk back up will end up being just as exuberant afterward as it was nearly a year ago.

Photo of Sapulpa's Tyla Heard by George Mitchell

-- Buck Ringgold | | @SBLiveOK