Birch’s 3-point win sparks Oklahoma girls to victory

Stephen C. Smith Sr.
Times Record News

Who says 3-point shooting contests are just for halftime entertainment?

Oklahoma used Katie Birch’s win in the 3-point shooting contest as a springboard in a 69-55 win over Texas in the Oil Bowl Girls’ Basketball Classic Thursday night at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.

“It was great that we were able to win the contest,” said Birch, “but it was even better because I think we all started feeling more comfortable afterwards.”

The player that seemed to feel the most comfortable in the second half was Oklahoma’s Earnesia Williams.

After two first-quarter baskets, the University of Texas signee came alive in the second half and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds to walk away with the game’s Most Valuable Player honors.

“I just started moving more and getting into the flow of the game,” Williams said. “My teammates and I started getting open on the fast-break and we made some things happen.

“Plus, there was some extra energy brought back to the bench when Katie won. It just kind of got everybody fired up.”

Oklahoma ’s rebounding advantage didn’t hurt much either. Led by Megan Byford (10 points, 12 rebounds), they out-muscled Texas 46-24 on the boards, including 18 on the offensive end.

“I think we crashed the boards really well considering that we were out-sized overall, especially at the guard position,” Oklahoma coach Darrick Farriell said. “We also did a better job of pushing the ball up the court than they did.

“It cost us some turnovers, but we were able to get a lot of easy buckets out of it.”

Turnovers and the rebounding disparity haunted Texas all night as they were able to chip away at Oklahoma’s 24-18 halftime lead, but that was about all they were able to do.

“I don’t know what the rebounding stats were, but it had to be horrendous,” Texas coach Kit Kyle Puckett said. “We talked about it at halftime. If we didn’t start to rebound the ball better, we would not win. Unless we got on the boards and stopped giving them extra shots, we weren’t going to win.

“And that’s exactly what happened — we didn’t win.”

Dominic Seals and Courtney Darwin each scored third-quarter baskets to tie the game at 32-32 and then again at 34-34 with 2:10 remaining, but that was as close as they would come.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well and Oklahoma was able to counter every run we were able to make at them,” Puckett said. “We had trouble containing Williams on the inside with rebounding and creating shots for other people.

“She’s a very talented young lady and once she got going, we just couldn’t play catch-up.”

Jennifer Colli led Texas with 13 points while Amanda Brown, Farren Fox and Ashley Leffingwell all had eight points each. Whitney Rice added 13 points, including three 3-pointers, for Oklahoma.

Oklahoma now leads the all-time series, 4-2.

Staff sports writer Stephen C. Smith Sr. can be reached after 6:30 p.m. at 1-800-627-1646 or (940) 720-3470. Or you can e-mail him at smiths@timesrecordnews.com