MIAMI - Welch annexed its 17th Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College High School Basketball Tournament title Saturday, Jan. 20, with a 61-51 victory over Wyandotte in the Girls Blue bracket final.
Along with winning their second consecutive championship, coach Shawn Goodwin's Lady Wildcats take a 2-1 lead in the season series against the Lady Bears.
Welch won the first game 64-60 to open the season before coach Bobby Walters’ Lady Bears posted a 59-53 win in the finals of the Kenneth Sooter Tournament at Welch.
Ranked No. 17 in Class A, the Lady Wildcats are 15-1 on the season while the Lady Bears stand 11-3 in Class 2A.
"All three have just been a battle," Goodwin said. "They are tough. We are tough. Tonight it was who gritted it out."
A large crowd in the Glen Wolfe Student Activity Center saw the Lady Wildcats pull away to a 10-0 cushion in less than three minutes to start the game.
Five points by Hailey Haskell, along with field goals by Aspen Wood and Maddie Schaper and a free throw by Olivia Chenoweth, ignited the Welch outburst.
Wyandotte received a 3-point field goal from Makenzie Powell, along with two free throws from Aranda Nair and layups from Haley Hart, Powell and Jillian Swonger to trail 14-12 with 1:28 left in the first quarter.
Consecutive layups by Schaper and Chenoweth produced an 18-12 Welch advantage heading into the second quarter.
Two free throws each by Chenoweth and Jaeli Jorgenson along with a field goal by Wood, boosted Welch to a 24-13 margin with 6:08 until halftime.
"Both teams were in foul trouble early," Goodwin said. "We just had to get by the way we could."
With Welch clinging to a 30-21 lead, the Lady Bears received a 3-pointer by Powell and one by Tarrah Stephens, along with two free throws by Nair and one by Stephens, to forge a 30-30 tie heading into the locker room at halftime.
"We switched up our defense in the second half where we weren’t out pressuring as much, letting (Tarrah) Stephens get to the rim," Goodwin said. "We did a better job just keeping them contained.
"We still had some mess-ups, but for the most part, we did our job," Goodwin said. "(Powell) didn’t have as many 3s in the second half as she did in the first. Changed to zone we put in. Tried to keep her contained."
Three free throws each by Haskell and Wood broke a 32-all tie and gave Welch a 38-32 margin in the first three minutes of the third quarter.
Five points by Maddie Branham, along with a layup by Nair and two free throws by Powell, rallied the Lady Bears to a 43-41 deficit with 57 seconds before the end of the quarter.
Jayci Atwood scored a field goal and free throw, along with baskets by Schaper and Madison Gilman, to give the Lady Wildcats a 50-41 advantage heading into the final quarter.
During the first three minutes Welch received a put back from Schaper as well as free throws by Wood and Chenoweth to maintain a 54-44 lead.
After Powell canned a 3-pointer at the 5:14 mark, Welch responded with a layup by Schaper and two free throws by Chenoweth for a 58-47 margin with 3:07 showing on the clock.
Field goals by Kallie Morisset and Kylee Severs closed out Wyandotte's scoring while Wood hit a 3-pointer at the 2:30 juncture for Welch.
"It was a good win," Goodwin said. "It could have gone either way and thankfully it went our way.
"We preached to the team both nights it was a playoff atmosphere," Goodwin said. "We have to clean some things up offensively by not having as many turnovers. We are where I want us to be."
Schaper led the Wildcats with 27 points while Chenoweth added 12 and Haskell and Wood scored 10 each. Madison Gillman chipped in with two points.
Powell paced the Bears with 21 points and Stephens finished with 12.
Nair scored six, Branham five, Swonger four and Hart three.
Wyandotte is idle until Friday, Jan. 26, when it hosts Colcord.
The Lady Wildcats host South Coffeyville on Tuesday, Jan. 23, then face a league showdown with Ketchum on Friday, Jan. 26.