By Nick Hampton
Oktaha coach Chester Pittman calls it one of the youngest teams he’s ever had. Couple that with the loss of your only senior for the better part of a quarter, and it adds up to a losing combination.
And so it was for the Lady Tigers as the more aggressive and athletic Spiro Lady Bulldogs handed Oktaha its first loss the season 52-41 in the semifinal round of the 34th Bedouin Shrine Classic basketball tournament at the Muskogee Civic Center Friday night.
“Spiro is a really good team, very athletic, but it really boiled down to a couple of things for us,” said Pittman. “They killed us on the offensive boards and when we lost Jaylie (Roper) for a while in the third quarter the game got away from us.”
The Lady Tigers (7-1) stayed close throughout the first half, thanks in part to poor shooting by the Lady Bulldogs. Although Spiro pulled down a dozen offensive rebounds in the half, it repeatedly missed putback opportunities, shooting just 32 percent for the half (8-of-32). Oktaha turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and shot only 24 percent including 0-for-7 in the second quarter, but still trailed by just six at half time 21-15.
Spiro (7-2) stretched the lead to eight points early in the third quarter when Roper, sporting a knee brace, had it come apart and she had to leave the game for about four minutes of the quarter. The senior-heavy Lady Bulldogs took advantage of the much younger Lady Tigers (a pair of juniors and three sophomores) and stretched the lead to 37-25 after three quarters. A 7-3 run by Spiro to start the final quarter proved too much for Oktaha to overcome.
“We’re real young and I was proud of the way we played,” said Pittman. “We looked a little lost out there when Jaylie was out of the game, but I think this was a good game for us to experience having to play catch up.”
The Lady Bulldogs were led by power forward Carleigha Thompson who had a game-high 18 points on the night and drew a lot of praise from head coach Kayla Carrington.
“We have three senior guards who all played well, but Carleigha is just a sophomore who handles the ball well and also gives us some size and aggressiveness inside,” said Carrington.
Oktaha, ranked eighth in Class 2A, was paced by Kelsey Cantwell with 16 points and Haley Baldridge who had 11.
Spiro plays Sequoyah for the championship at 4:30 p.m. at Muskogee Civic Center. Oktaha plays Haskell for third place at 9 a.m., also at the Civic Center.
Sequoyah 68, Haskell 46
The Haskell Lady Haymakers found out the hard way what a stifling defense can do on Friday at Ron Milam Gymnasium.
The Sequoyah Lady Indians created 14 first-half turnovers to grab a 32-point lead at the half and coasted to a 68-46 win and a date with defending champion Spiro in the Large School girls final.
We didn’t want to press at first,” said Sequoyah coach Larry Callison. “But we kind of got nonchalant and had to pick up the tempo. That was the difference in the game.”
To compound Haskell’s problem, the Lady Haymakers (2-6) shot 29.4 percent (5 of 17) in the half while The Lady Indians, 7-1 and No. 5 in the Class 3A poll, connected on 50 percent (17 of 34) in the first 16 minutes.
“We’re very young and they are very talented,” said Haskell coach Rick Kirkhart. “We’ve got a ways to go but we’ll get there. It’s just going to take some time.”
Four Lady Indians finished in double figures led by Loren Young’s 15 points while Jhonett Cookson ahd 13 points and Audrey Ballou and Cenia Hayes had 11 points each. Haskell’s Denora Wheeland led all scorers with 28 points, 26 coming in the second half.
Young knew in the early going that her points were going to come off her defensive effort.
“We played together as a team,” she said. “When that happens, we all get opportunities.”
While Callison was pleased with the defensive effort, he was glad to see Young come through on the offensive end.
“She hasn’t been shooting the ball real well,” Callison said. “I was glad to see her have a good night offensively.”
— Ronn Rowland
Small school girls
Seventh-place game, Hilldale JV vs. Porter, Hilldale HS, 10:30 a.m.
Consolation final, Summit Christian vs. OKC Santa Fe South, Muskogee HS, 10:30 a.m.
Hulbert vs. Oktaha, Muskogee CC, 10:30 a.m.
Finals, Spiro vs. Haskell, CC, 6 p.m