Women's basketball: East Central's Gaines marking end of high school career
BY DUANE DAPRON World Correspondent
Thursday, July 26, 2012
7/26/12 at 5:51 AM
U'Knique Gaines bid farewell to an old friend Wednesday night.
Gaines, who averaged 13.5 points a game as a power forward at East Central High School this past season, saw her final prep action in the Large School All-State Game at a place that has become almost like a second home to her.
The All-State girls' basketball games were played at the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University. The arena has served as the site for the Class 6A and 5A state basketball championships the last three years.
She was a member of Cardinal teams that played in the Class 5A state title game each of the past three years (vs. McAlester in 2010, vs. OKC McGuinness in 2011 and vs. Shawnee in 2012).
Unfortunately, for Gaines and her teammates, each of those championship games ended in tears of sadness rather than tears of joy at the ORU facility.
East Central finished a state runner-up in her last three years of high school.
"Yes, I am back here once again," she said before her final prep appearance at the arena Wednesday night.
"But this time I just want to go out and have fun and enjoy the game."
Gaines finished with nine points - all in the second half - in the East's 65-60 All-State game setback.
After back-to-back state runner-up finishes, second-ranked East Central thought it might have the experience and talent in 2012 to claim the school's first state crown since winning consecutive titles in 2006 and 2007. But an injury to starter Bria Pitts resulted in her missing the state final and the Cardinals suffered a four-point setback against top-ranked and undefeated Shawnee.
But Gaines is not dwelling on the past. She looks forward to taking what she has learned in high school and continuing her basketball playing days at Independence (Kan.) Community College, where she will move to a shooting guard position.
"I am going to miss high school," she said. "But I have come a long way. I used to be shy and didn't talk much. Now I have become a leader."
Original Print Headline: All-Stater marking end of high school play
Small school game
The story: The East broke open a two-point game at halftime by outscoring the West 26-14 in the third quarter en route to the 20-point win.
Top performances: Kelsey Barnwell from Kansas tallied a game-high 16 points while Brooke Watkins from Prague added 14 and Courtney Backward from Salina contributed 11 for the East. Barnwell had seven points, including a 3-pointer, in the decisive third quarter while Backward connected on a trio of treys in the East's uprising.
Noteworthy: Lacey Paulk from Washington paced the West with 14 points. Jerry Walker from Fort Gibson was named Girls Coach of the Year by the Oklahoma Coaches Association. He has also been selected as one of the finalists for National Coach of the Year honors.
Small East 83, Small West 63
Small West: Paulk 14, Van Pelt 13, J. Brown 8, Williams 8, Garner 6, L. Brown 5, Fast 4, Corneell 3, Richardson 1, McBride 1.
Small East: Barnwell 16, Watkins 14, Backward 11, Cowan 10, Solberg 9, Bryan 8, M. Brown 6, Harrison 5, Douglas 4.
Large school game
The story: Courtney Walker from Edmond Santa Fe netted 11 of her game-high 18 points in the first half to help the West to an early lead and the East could not rally despite closing within two points late in the final quarter.
Top performances: DeVaughn Gray from Booker T. Washington led the East with 12 points while Miranda Taylor from Claremore chipped in 10 and U'Knique Gaines from East Central had nine points for the East.
Noteworthy: Caitlyn Spurgeon from Vinita received the Jim Thorpe Award as the state's top high school girls' basketball player in 2012. She finished with eight points for the East.
Large West 65, Large East 60
Large West: Walker 18, Hight 10, Gonzaque 8, Decker 7, Williams 6, Sullivan 6, Boggess 4, Kabba 4, Culberson 2.
Large East: Gray 12, Taylor 10, Gaines 9, Spurgeon 8, Cooper 7, Hutchings 5, Green 4, Glover 3, Hill 2.
The East's Taylor Cooper and Julia Hill surround the West's Courtney Walker during Wednesday's Large School All-State game at the Mabee Center. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World