By Nick Hampton
FORT GIBSON — Take a pinch of defense, a timely dose of offense and presto, it all turns into another victory for Class 4A’s top ranked Lady Tigers of Fort Gibson who remained undefeated with a convincing 65-34 win over Wagoner in their home opener at Harrison Field House Tuesday night.
The Lady Bulldogs played a tough first quarter and trailed just 18-14. But then the defending state champions turned on the defense.
Using a tight man-to-man defense and some full court pressure, Fort Gibson forced nine Wagoner errors in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 12 points, 30-18, before the Lady Bulldogs got the final four points of the stanza to make it 30-22 at the break.
Enter the dose of offense named Jayme Hill.
The 5-10 junior blew out of the locker room and scored 13 of her game-high 18 points in the third quarter as the Lady Tigers (4-0) outscored Wagoner 22-4 to lead 52-26 after three periods.
“Coach Walker kind of got on us at halftime and I knew we had to play better,” said Hill. ‘I wasn’t hitting my 3-point shots so I just started driving to the basket.”
Although it his team’s home opener, FGHS coach Jerry Walker wasn’t sure it felt like home sweet home in the first half.
“But we made some adjustments at halftime and we executed better in the second half,” he said. “Jayme shot the ball well from the high post and our defense was much better.”
Poor free-throw shooting (9-of-26) was of some concern to Walker.
“It’s one of those things that have been up and down. The other day we were 13-of-17 and tonight we shot poorly. That’s one of those areas we’ve got to get more consistent in as the season goes along,” he said.
Wagoner coach Jeff Oliver, while disappointed with the loss did see some needed improvement in his Lady Bulldogs (0-3).
“The girls played with a lot of intensity in the first half,” said Oliver. “If we had opened the season with that intensity, we might have a couple of wins under our belt. After tonight, I feel like we’re finally moving in the right direction.”
Besides Hill, the Lady Tigers got 13 points from Desiree Phipps while Wagoner was paced by Kallie Smith with 12 points.
Fort Gibson 79,
The eighth-ranked Tigers (3-1) had little trouble disposing of the Bulldogs as Jordan London poured in 23 points.
The Tigers used a two-three zone defense to thwart Wagoner’s size advantage inside and the strategy worked as Fort Gibson broke things open to start the second quarter with a 14-3 run and lead at halftime 41-28. Like the girls, the Tigers used a big third quarter to blow the game open, outscoring Wagoner 20-6 in the stanza.
“Our zone did bother them a little bit and we pressured them a little bit and forced just enough turnovers to get us a little lead,” said Tigers coach Gary Hendrix. “I was proud of the kids. They played hard and played well and I think we’re getting a little bit better each time we play.”
While disappointed with the loss, Wagoner coach Jason Giddens sees a brighter future for his Bulldogs (1-2).
“We played hard and this team has a lot of character,” he said. “This is one of the best group of kids with character that I’ve ever had. We’re inexperienced but these kids never quit and we’ll get better as we go.”
Joining London in double figures for the Tigers were Stephen Edwards with 14 points, Coleman Crawley with 12 and Austin Gassaway with 10 points. Leading scorer for the Bulldogs was Kendall Cook with 18 points.
The Tigers will entertain Hilldale on Friday while Wagoner will host Grove that night.