Tayjanna McGhee-Pleasant and Jenna Cooper both had double-doubles, and Payton Brown almost did as they led the second-ranked Wayland Baptist Flying Queens to a convincing victory, 88-63, over No. 23 Oklahoma City University in the semifinals of the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament.
“I’m so proud of our girls. Obviously, that is always a big game” (against OCU), Wayland coach Alesha Ellis said after Friday night’s game inside Hutcherson Center.
The Queens move on to the SAC Tournament final at 6 p.m. Monday against seventh-seeded Langston, which recorded another surprise Friday night by rallying late to beat USAO, 77-76.
Friday’s battle of unbeaten between Wayland and OCU proved to be lopsided from the beginning, with the Queens (12-0) taking a 24-14 first-quarter lead and never looking back. At halftime, WBU was up by an eye-popping 22 points, 46-24, over the rival Stars (5-1).
Wayland increased the margin to 29 in the third quarter as Stars had no answer for the Queens’ efficient offense and suffocating inside defense.
“We have great leaders on the court and it’s nice to know that we have a team full of players that can play in big games,” Ellis said. “We preach that hard work beats talent, and I thought the kids worked hard tonight. I’m super proud of them.”
McGhee-Pleasant and Cooper led the way. Both were one off their season scoring highs, Cooper with 20 and McGhee-Pleasant with 19. Cooper also wound up with 10 rebounds, while McGhee-Pleasant came down with 18 boards, shattering her season-high by seven.
Cooper did much of her damage from beyond the 3-point stripe, hitting four of Wayland’s 10 bombs, while McGhee-Pleasant was deadly at the free-throw line, hitting all seven of her attempts as Wayland made all but one of its 13 foul shots as a team.
While it was Cooper’s fifth double-double of the season and 14th of her two-year career at Wayland, it was the first of the season for McGhee-Pleasant and the second of the sophomore’s time as a Queen.
“I was proud of Tay and the way she played. She had a big game and I thought all of the kids followed our game plan on both ends of the floor,” Ellis said.
Brown put up similarly solid numbers with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists. SAC Freshman of the Year Kaitlyn Edgemon also reached double figures with 14 points and recorded half of Wayland’s six blocked shots. Sister Kaylee, the SAC Player of the Year, ended with nine rebounds and seven points, but she beat her little sister to the bench by logging five fouls first.
The top-seeded Queens were relentless on the boards, outrebounding fourth-seeded OCU, 60-36, including 22-8 on the offensive glass. Seven of McGhee-Pleasant’s rebounds came on offense.
While Wayland, after shooting 53 percent from the field in the first quarter, shot 39 percent for the game, OCU never found much of a rhythm and wound up at 32 percent, including just 6-of-21 (29 percent) from 3-point range.
The Stars were led by Erika Ankney’s 18 points. Abby Selzer, last season’s SAC Player of the Year, ended with 13 points and nine rebounds, although she had only two points and three boards at halftime. Paige Pendley added 12 points.
Only one senior was on the floor Friday, Wayland’s Kaylee Edgemon, although she’s expected to return next season as players get their COVID season back.
The Queens will return to the Hutch at 6 p.m. Monday for the SAC Tournament championship game against a bit of a surprise team, the red-hot, seventh-seeded Langston Lions (8-6), who came from behind on the road to knock off third-seeded USAO on Friday, 77-76. That came after Langston upset No. 2 seed Mid-America Christian on the road in the first round, 77-66.
Wayland and Langston met on Jan. 30 in Oklahoma with the Flying Queens prevailing, 90-75. WBU went up 32-15 after the first quarter but the Lady Lions rallied and cut the margin to 10 going into the fourth quarter. Langston got as close as six on several occasions, and Wayland went on a 7-0 game-ending run to close it out.
Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament
At campus sites
Game 1: No. 1 Wayland Baptist 99, No. 8 Panhandle State 62
Game 2: No. 4 Oklahoma City 88, No. 5 Southwestern Christian 57
Game 3: No. 3 USAO 86, No. 6 John Brown 62
Game 4: No. 7 Langston 75, No. 2 Mid-America Christian 66
Game 5: Wayland Baptist 88, Oklahoma City 63
Game 6: Langston 77, USAO 76
Monday, March 1
Game 7: Wayland Baptist (12-0) vs. Langston (8-6), at Plainview, 6 p.m.