OKEMAH — Sometimes in order to make the state tournament you have to be willing to give blood, sweat and tears.

OKEMAH — Sometimes in order to make the state tournament you have to be willing to give blood, sweat and tears.

The No. 5 Sulphur Lady Bulldogs gave all three Friday night, and then some against No. 2 Roland.

Thanks to a fade away jumper from junior Abby Beck with 12 seconds left, followed by a solid defensive stand, the Lady Bulldogs were able to escape with the area championship 33-32 at the Tom Condict Panther Dome in Okemah, punching their ticket to the state tournament.

Sulphur will play at a time and place to be determined, when the OSSAA releases the state tournament pairings later this week. 

The trip to state is the first for the Sulphur girls team since their undefeated state title run in 2013. 

However, the victory was slightly interrupted following the final horn as Payton Row was struck by a Roland player in the face, leaving her bloodied and face down on the floor. 

Despite the errant strike, it was the Lady Bulldogs who got the last word, and the hardware to show for it.

“That was one of those games, where it was intense the whole time,” Sulphur coach Toby Todd said. “I’m just so proud of how the girls never gave up. We missed way too many free throws and layups down low, and I thought that was going to get us in the end.”

“These girls showed true heart and true resolve tonight,” Todd added. “They were able to pull out a great one tonight. Peyton (James) came through tonight with great effort and tenacity. She’s a great kid and very deserving of the performance she had in this game. People may think we’re crazy, but we were preparing every game this season to get us to the state tournament, and now we’re here.”

Sulphur had no problem earning a lead in the first half against the Lady Rangers.

In fact Roland didn’t lead for the first time in the game until 7-6 with 14 seconds left in the first quarter, as the score stood going to the second.

Just before halftime, it looked as though the Lady Bulldogs were going to be able to build off a lead as they had garnered a four point advantage at 14-10 and 16-12, with the latter coming at the 3:17 mark before halftime.

Unfortunately, the Lady Rangers came back to tie the game at 16-16, before eventually tying the game again at 18-18, as the score remained with the teams going to the locker room.

The second half was anything but smooth for Sulphur though.

Roland grabbed the lead at 20-18 just 30 seconds into the third and lead the whole quarter, with the Lady Rangers biggest lead coming at four points at 22-18 with 6:46 left.

Going to the fourth though, Sulphur was still within striking distance at 25-22.

As the clock wound down in the final quarter, Sulphur tried its best to chip away at the Lady Rangers lead, getting to within two points multiple times.

With 1:43 left in the fourth, the Lady Bulldogs finally got to within one at 32-31.

Then just over a minute later, it was Beck’s time to shine. 

Sulphur’s junior post standout took a pass and then needed just a couple of dribbles before turning and shooting, as she faded away towards the Lady Bulldogs bench.

The end result was a swish, and a one point lead for Sulphur at 33-32. 

“In the moment, I knew I had to take the shot,” Beck said about her game-winning points. “I’m just so proud of all of these girls and the work we put into winning this game tonight.”

Following one last defensive stand, the Lady Bulldogs were able to celebrate their return to the state tournament.

Kady Lynch led Sulphur with 11 points followed by Beck with 10 points.

Payton Row added seven points while Makella Mobly and Payton James each scored two points. 

“We’ve been working for this all year, and it’s so exciting,” Row said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the support from the fans and everyone in the community. Ashley Hughes was one of my heroes off the state championship team growing up, and now I get to be in her shoes and hopefully play as good as she did.”

“Abby (Beck) stepped up the whole game, it wasn’t just that one shot,” Row said. “She did amazing tonight. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Payton (James). I couldn’t guard the people she guards. She did an amazing job for us tonight and worked so hard all night.”