Stephen C. Smith Sr., Times Record News
Meia Daniels is used to being the go-to player for Keller Fossil Ridge, but coming into Thursday night’s Oil Bowl Girls Basketball Classic inside D.L. Ligon Coliseum, she wasn’t expecting to have the ball in her hands with the game on the line.
“On my team, that’s usually my role,” Daniels said. “But playing with all these all-star players, I’ve never had that role before — but I’m glad I had it tonight.”
Daniels scored 11 points and sank three 3-pointers over the final five minutes of the contest to erase a nine-point deficit and help Texas upend Oklahoma, 73-67.
Her final 3-pointer gave Texas the lead for good at 69-67 with 31 seconds left.
“I just don’t like to lose and I’ll do just about anything to win,” Daniels said. “I had to dig my way out the hole I’d been in the whole game and the team kept giving me chances to score.”
Daniels, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, started the fourth with just one point via a free throw in the first quarter.
Leading 61-52 with 5:40 remaining, Oklahoma had three straight turnovers before Texas’ Missy Davis hit a 3-pointer to bring her team within six points of the lead just minutes before the “Meia Daniels Show” began.
“Meia came through for us in the fourth quarter, but everyone contributed,” Texas coach Arnold Parker said. “I’m just proud of every one of them.
“We were able to push the ball up the floor a bit and get some easy shots, but Oklahoma did a good job pushing it, too.”
Daniels and Davis each had 12 points to lead Texas while Vernon’s Shanika Conaway had nine points on three 3-pointers.
“This game is one of the greatest things there is,” Oklahoma coach Mike Fitts said. “Anytime you have teams from two rival states, it’s a tremendous opportunity. In some cases, it starts a rivalry that’s going to carry on to the Division I, II, III and NAIA levels and that’s good for the game.”
After exchanging baskets on fast breaks throughout the first quarter, Oklahoma took a 14-13 lead on ReQuecia Stephens’ jumper five seconds into the second and wouldn’t trail again until Daniels’ second three connected with 1:30 remaining.
“They got hot, we got a little cold and it happened at the right time for them,” Fitts said. “It wasn’t like they were hitting uncontested 3-pointers either.
“One of our players even tipped one their 3’s and it still went in — when you start doing that from two or three steps behind the line, you’re hot.”
Taleesha Conder led Oklahoma with 15 points while Stephens and Cassidy Pillow each had 13.
“When you come to a basketball game, you want some excitement and some fun,” Parker said. “I think this game created that for the fans tonight.
“I think the fans got their money’s worth — I know I did and I was just sitting there watching.”
Texas had 10 total 3-pointers on the night, but an Oklahoma player walked away with the title in the 3-point shooting contest.
Oklahoma’s Nataly Gray, who was the last shooter in the contest finished with 16 points to outdistance Archer City’s Brittni Burks, who had just scored 11 points.
“My coaches and I used to have 3-point contests after practice all the time, so I’ve shot a lot of them,” Gray said. “It was fun to be out there and all the other girls are good, so it helped bring out my best.”
Oklahoma now leads the all-time series, 3-2.
Although Texas was able to pull out the win, Fitts was pleased to be a part of the rich Oil Bowl tradition.
“Mr. Awtry and Mr. Snodgrass do a tremendous job putting this game on,” Fitts said. “The community of Wichita Falls should be proud of the work they put in to make this whole thing successful and we appreciate just the opportunity to come down.”
Staff sports writer Stephen C. Smith Sr. can be reached after 6 p.m. at 1-800-627-1646 or (940) 720-3470. Or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org