Katie Smith stood at the bench as her team crossed the Mustang Bronco logo.
Usually, the Mustang coach would be calling out a set or yelling orders to senior point guard Parker Simonsen.
But in the fourth quarter of a 74-67 win over two-time defending Class A state champion Seiling, Smith just watched. Simonsen had already called out a play and the Broncos were executing.
The time had come for her players to take the reins.
“Player-led teams win championships,” Smith said.
The victory propelled the Broncos into the Bank 7 Mustang Holiday Classic championship game, capping a strong run to end December.
“As a head coach, it’s the best feeling when you have players that can take over. Parker was like a coach on the court, calling offenses down on the other end. That takes a special player and a group of girls who are willing to put the team first.”
The win marked a third straight for the Broncos (7-4, 3-2), who eventually fell to defending 6A champion Edmond North in the tournament finals.
RECAP: BRONCOS HOLD OFF TWO-TIME DEFENDING CLASS A STATE CHAMPION SEILING IN BANK 7 MUSTANG HOLIDAY CLASSIC SEMIFINALS
The victory also showed how far Smith’s team has come in exactly one year. The Broncos fell to Seiling in the opening round of the 2022 Holiday Classic and the Wildcats haven’t skipped a beat since winning their second straight state title.
“We would have lost that game a year ago,” Smith said. “We would have folded under pressure. But now that w’ere older and more confident in how we compete, we can beat teams like that. Seiling is a really good team – possibly better than half of the teams in 6A.
“It shows how hard we’ve worked to get here. This is where we wanted to be. On the winning side.”
Smith has also been impressed with each player’s basketball IQ and how they play within their role for the benefit of the team.
Mya Alston (So.) poses with her All-Tournament Team trophy with Bank 7 Executive VP Danny Lawson following the Bank 7 Mustang Holiday Classic championship game on Dec. 30 at the Mustang Event Center. (Photo by Trey Hunter)
“The thing that stands out the most right now is that no matter who goes out on the court, they all know their role and play it to a high level. They trust each other.
“I can run multiple offenses because each girl has a really high IQ for the game. They understand the ins and outs and it makes my life so much easier.”
Simonsen’s performance against Seiling was a prime example.
The University of Central Oklahoma-signee turned out a double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds, adding four assists as well. She was clutch at the free-throw line, but more importantly she excelled in her role.
Mya Alston (So.), who was selected to the Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team, was also sensational and continued her growth as a player.
She scored 21 points with two assists and two rebounds in the win over Seiling. She also scored 14 points with four boards in a 50-46 a quarterfinals-win over Class 4A No. 17 Classen SAS and dropped 10 points against Edmond North in the finals.
Parker Simonsen (Sr.) poses with Bank 7 Executive VP Danny Lawson and the Bank 7 Mustang Holiday Classic runner-up trophy following the tournament championship game on Dec. 30 at the Mustang Event Center. (Photo by Trey Hunter)
Kamryn Bass (Sr.), Cherish Haywood (Jr.) and Christal Long (Jr.) are starting to jell around Simonsen and Alston in the starting lineup.
The trio combined for 22 points, 16 rebounds, and three assists against Seiling and and 22 points and 10 boards against Classen SAS.
Riley Trammell (Sr.), an Oklahoma Christian University-signee, Christal Long (Jr.), Tionna Johnson (Jr.), Camryn Engles (Sr.), Eliana Valentin Florance (Jr.), and Avery Ragland (So.) all play valuable minutes off the bench.
“We’ve been focusing on working together,” Haywood said after Mustang’s win over Classen SAS. “When we work together and share the ball, we get good looks. And on the defensive end when we work together and focus, we get stops.”
The Broncos currently sit in fourth place in Class 6A District 1. They square off against Moore (6-3, 3-2) in a district road matchup on Tuesday night, tipping off the final stretch of the regular season.
Simonsen and her teammates are ready to build on the momentum from their last two wins.
“We always say mind on the goal and heart on the why,” the senior guard said. “If we all focus on each other and grind it out as a team, we’re going to keep getting the job done.”