For the last four years, J'Sades Ainsworth has made the Ardmore High School Gymnasium a second home as a member of the varsity basketball team.
For the last four years, J’Sades Ainsworth has made the Ardmore High School Gymnasium a second home as a member of the varsity basketball team.
Monday night, she walked off that same floor in the best way she could have imagined, a regional champion.
Thanks to the Lady Tigers senior draining clutch free throws down the stretch, No. 5 Ardmore was able to not only claim a 40-32 victory over No. 15 Blanchard in front of the largest crowd of the season at the Ardmore High School Gymnasium, but in the process put itself one game away from the state tournament.
There was also the small matter of Ardmore moving to 22-2 on the season, including finishing off a perfect 11-0 record at home this season.
Ardmore will have its chance to punch a ticket to the Class 4A state tournament Friday night at Washington High School against No. 4 Anadarko in the area tournament at 6:30 p.m.
“We knew we weren’t shooting the ball well again tonight, so we told them to tighten up on defense and just get physical,” Ardmore coach Debra Manley said. “For us it was about getting to the free throw line and just getting after loose balls and getting some hands in on deflections.”
For a short moment though Monday night, it looked like the Lady Lions were going to be the ones getting three days off instead of Ardmore.
Ardmore took the lead three times in the first quarter at 2-0, 4-3 and then again at the end of the frame at 13-12, thanks to a 5-0 down the last 1:54 of the first quarter.
When the second quarter began however, the Lady Tigers weren’t seeing anything but their dreams of a regional championship slowly start to dissolve.
Blanchard grabbed the lead at 14-13 just 20 seconds into the quarter, and led by as many as six points with 2:01 remaining before halftime.
Going into the locker room though, the Lady Tigers kept themselves within striking distance at 23-19.
While it took nearly six minutes into the third quarter, Ardmore was able to regain the lead at 27-25, amid constant defensive pressure from Ainsworth and other players, combined with clutch baskets on the offensive end.
Ardmore used its newfound momentum to build a 29-25 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
“We knew we were going to start the game in a 1-2-2 or a 2-1-2 and float J’Sades through the middle,” Manley said. “She got her butt down on defense and moved very well. She’s such a great athlete and we knew she could get her hands in on passes and cause some deflections to lead to some steals for us.
Just 55 seconds into the fourth quarter, it was Ardmore who had built a 31-25 advantage.
This time however, it was Blanchard’s turn to cut into the deficit slowly.
Despite the Lady Lions best efforts though, the closest Blanchard got in the fourth was at 33-32, before the Lady Tigers finished the game off with a 7-0 run.
J’Sades Ainsworth led Ardmore with 21 points in the contest, followed by Sierra Gordon with nine points and Amaya Gordon with six points.
“A lot of people doubted us this season, and to be able to finish the year undefeated at home is very special,” Ainsworth said. “At practice we always do a hard drill and then go shoot free throws. So when I went to the line late in the fourth, it felt like practice because I was tired and knew these shots counted and needed to go in for us.”