OKLAHOMA CITY — All year long, No. 1 Sulphur played with the fury of a team on a mission for immortality.

Mission accomplished.

Ashley Hughes led the Bulldogs with 15 points and Sulphur put together one of the finest defensive performances in Oklahoma prep history, stifling No. 2 Perkins-Tryon 42-34 to earn the Class 3A state title on Saturday at the State Fair Arena.

“I feel like, finally, I can say we finished,” Sulphur coach Toby Todd said. “I feel like we really stepped up and played our best basketball at the right time.”

The game was a vintage Sulphur defensive performance; going against two celebrated post players in Perkins’ Jordan Gorham and McKenzie Stanford, Sulphur’s Ebony Harrison and Bailee Eldred controlled the paint on defense, especially in the first half, while Tierani Richardson, Darsha Reagle and Hughes brought constant pressure on the perimeter.

The team also earned its stripes on the boards, outrebounding a longer Perkins-Tryon 25-18.

“The word that comes to mind for me is gritty,” Hughes said of the defense. “We just had a great will to win.”

Eldred, the sophomore sensation that capped a coming-out party at the state tournament with another strong performance, hit an early dagger 3-pointer that gave Sulphur a 14-4 lead with 3:03 left in the first quarter, giving her seven for the frame.

“To come in as a sophomore and put together a state tournament like she did just speaks volumes of her ability,” Todd said.

When the first-half smoke had cleared, the Bulldogs held an astonishing 19-9 lead over the Lady Demons, who were 4 of 17 from the field and 1 of 8 from the 3-point line in the first 16 minutes of the game.

“That just speaks volumes for the focus and intensity of every possession,” Todd said. “We knew that that’s what we would have to do to slow them down and the girls executed it.”

As had been the case all year long, when a Sulphur opponent pushed, the Bulldogs send a raining haymaker and floored them.

When Perkins-Tryon threatened early out of the third quarter gates by going on a 6-0 run to pull the deficit to 19-15, Hughes squashed it with back-to-back layups.

When the Lady Demons cut the Sulphur lead to 37-32 with 2:05 left, Hughes and Richardson answered the call by going 5-of-5 at the line to close the game.

It was a virtuoso performance for a group that dedicated itself to avenging a semifinal loss to Prague a year ago, and delivered one of the most remarkable seasons in Oklahoma high school basketball history.
The Bulldogs went 30-0, defeated semifinalists from Class B, 4A and 6A, the Texas 4A state champion, and two previously unbeaten teams (Adair and Perkins-Tryon) in the 3A semifinals and finals.

“Every single one of them brought everything they had to the table,” Todd said. “Each player is a piece of the puzzle, and everybody performed their role to make the pieces fit.”

Follow White on Twitter: @swhiteARD