Dale, Howe reach state title game
Douglas Miles and James D. Jackson
Karsen Griggs wondered if she was done with competitive basketball.
The Dale junior has a bright future ahead on the softball field and is already committed to the University of Kansas, so when a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in her right knee sidelined her last summer, it placed any further basketball participation in serious doubt.
The top-ranked Pirates are sure glad she was able to give it a go.
“It’s everything,” Griggs said after her 15 points and six rebounds helped Dale to a 52-47 victory over No. 2 Amber-Pocasset in a Class 2A girls’ basketball state semifinal Friday at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. “This bunch has been through heck and back, and the battles and the trials and everything like that. To be here today, it’s something amazing.”
Griggs’ injury occurred during a summer basketball game with rival Silo, and surgery to repair the knee took place July 15. As the school year loomed and decisions regarding the basketball roster needed to be made, Griggs conferred with her family and decided to get fitted for a knee brace and test her rehabilitation.
After sitting out the first two games of the season — which included one of just two losses this season for Dale (30-2) — Griggs returned to the court.
Griggs had just four points at halftime as Amber-Pocasset jumped on the Pirates with a 10-0 burst to open the contest and withstood a Dale second-quarter charge to hold a 21-18 lead at halftime.
“Our schedule prepares us for that,” Dale coach Eric Smith said. “We have down before to good teams, so we didn’t panic because we have got character and we have played good people. We just hung in there and fought.”
The third quarter was highlighted by five lead changes before Dale closed the frame with a 12-3 burst, highlighted by a rousing old-fashioned three-point play from senior Brook Rutland that gave the Pirates the lead for good at 2928 with 2:33 left in the frame.
“It is just really pushing each other,” said Rutland, who matched Griggs’ scoring production with 15 points.
Dale used the free-throw line to extend its lead to as much as 10 points late in the fourth quarter. Griggs scored 11 of her 15 points in the pivotal second half. Sophomore Ava Bell registered nine points, senior Makenzy Herman added eight and junior Gracee Waller grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
Savage scored 17 points and Teague contributed 16 for Amber-Pocasset, which ends its season at 28-3.
After having its season end in the state semifinals in each of the past two seasons, Dale will attempt to win its first state championship since 2010 on Saturday at 11:45 against No. 8 Howe (25-6).
Gracie Lute caught the ball near the State Fair Arena logo behind the 3point line.
And the Howe senior knew exactly where to go with the ball from there.
Lute fired a pass to Abby Huie who stood in the corner. Huie didn’t hesitate and let the 3-pointer fly. As the shot fell through the net, for one of her five made 3-pointers on the night, Lute clapped her hands in triumph as the final seconds fell off of the clock of the half.
It was at that moment Howe knew. Howe had scored 30 points in the second quarter to completely take over the game and Lute’s 3-pointer before the half was the exclamation point on the successful run.
On Friday, Howe’s big second quarter led to the 2022 state runner-up to route Pawhuska 74-48 to advance back to the state championship for the fourth consecutive year. Howe had four starters score in double-figures, Huie (15), Ashlynn Dalton (15), Lute (13) and Jurnee Williams (11).
“We lost all five starters from a team that was not only the state runner-up last year but a state champion before and had a lot of experience,” Howe coach Chris Brown said.
The game was two programs on opposite sides of history coming together. Howe (25-6), which has won two championships in four years, with the 2020 canceled tournament interrupting the probable three-peat, took the floor with relatively new players but displayed the same defensive pressure and outside shooting as past teams.
On the other end, Pawhuska (26-4) which had lost in districts by two points against Tonkawa, had to win five straight games to advance to its first state tournament in school history. And even had to take down Preston, which had appeared in 30 state tournaments and won four titles, to keep their magical run going.