By SHAWN YORKS
The Leader & Times
WOODWARD, Okla. — The Hammon High School Lady Warriors have survived the occasional scare or two in their undefeated run through the 2010-2011 season. But with a trip to the state tournament on the line Friday night, Hammon ran into its biggest challenge to date — the Balko Lady Bison.
Balko matched the Lady Warriors blow-for-blow. But time just ran out on the Lady Bison in a 55-50 loss Friday night in Woodward’s Boomer Fieldhouse. Hammon (27-0) goes to the state tournament next week, while Balko must beat Forgan in a rematch of the regional championship, Saturday night in Woodward.
That winner will also pack their bags for Oklahoma City.
“(Forgan’s) a tough matchup,” Balko head coach Mitch Cowan said. “They’ve got a couple girls that shoot the ball well, they just keep it low-scoring and they like to pound the basketball. They’re a good basketball team. They’ll be tough to beat again.”
Hammon put on a 3-point shooting clinic, nailing nine from beyond the arc during the course of the game.
Balko (23-3) jumped to a 4-0 lead thanks to Jaylee Mays and Kyla Cowan, but Hammon roared back to tie it at six. The Lady Bison surged back to a 10-6 lead, Hammon cut it to 10-9, and Balko took it back to 12-9 on a quick Mays basket.
The lead exchanged hands three times in the final minute of the first, and Hammon held a 15-14 lead at the end of the quarter.
Hammon led by as much as six in the second quarter, but Mays and Madison Dearmin cut it back to two before the Lady Warriors inched back to a 26-22 advantage at the half.
Dearmin and Cowan tied it for Balko in the opening moments of the second half as the teams exchaned more blows, trading off the lead four times before Balko went up 33-31 at the end of the third quarter.
Hammon opened the fourth with a quick run and pulled out to a 43-35 lead, but Balko kept fighting, bringing it back to a 3-point game with 1:55 left, which is when Mays fouled out.
Dearmin, a freshman took over, cutting it to 52-50 before Hammon pulled out for the win by going 7-for-10 from the free throw line in the final 1:47.
Mays led Balko with 14 points — 12 of those in the first half — Dearmin added 13, Cowan nine, Kelsi Stevens eight, Jordie Jett four and Monica Bennett two.
Kori Barrios led Hammon with 22 points and Lexi Brown scored 14
“We played well all game long, but it finally caught up to us a little bit there (foul trouble),” Cowan said. “We worked hard, they’re just a good basketball team. They made shots when they had to.”