By Nick Hampton
WAGONER — Offense makes the headlines most of the time in basketball. But as the Fort Gibson Tiger teams showed Tuesday night, it also takes defense and a good bench to have a championship caliber team.
And on night when neither Tiger team was stellar on offense, they used those two traits to score a sweep over Wagoner in a Verdigris Valley Conference battle at the Robert Hughes Event Center here.
Class 4A’s top ranked and undefeated Lady Tigers (11-0) put 13 players in the scoring column, but only one in double figures, as they knocked off the Lady Bulldogs 69-25. Despite the easy win, Lady Tiger coach Jerry Walker says, although his team has a lot of things going for it to be able to repeat as state champs, they still have some work to do.
“We’re a more offensive-minded team than we were last year. Probably the most offensive shooters I’ve had on one team in a long time,” said Walker. “We’re looking to still develop our inside game a little more, but I think we’ll get there in the next month.”
But for Walker it was the bench that really made a difference against the Lady Bulldogs, and for that matter, so far this the season.
“Our bench is one of the biggest reasons for our success. When we come off the bench, our intensity gets better. One of the reasons for that is Grace Parker,” said Walker. “She is as intense a player on defense as anyone you would find anywhere. I coached Jodi Glover a few years ago and she was one of my best ever on defense and Grace Parker is in that same mold.”
The two teams clashed before the holidays and Wagoner (3-5) played tough for three quarters before finally falling 65-34. But Tuesday night Lady Bulldog coach Jeff Oliver said his girls never got out of first gear.
“I think Fort Gibson may be the best team in the state regardless of class and we didn’t play nearly as well as we did when we played at their place,” said Oliver. “We struggled early and just never got in any kind of rhythm. When we played them earlier we had a good rhythm and shot well and it was a competitive game until late.”
Allie Glover was the only Tiger in double figures with 12 points while Savannah Gray and Jayme Hill each had nine. Karrigan Kimball led the way for Wagoner with eight points on the night
Fort Gibson 57,
Rayne Cox came off the bench to score 20 points to lead sixth-ranked Fort Gibson to the win.
The Tigers (9-1) jumped to a 25-7 lead at halftime and were never in trouble, but coach Gary Hendrix felt his team came out a little flat offensively.
“We didn’t shoot great (42 percent), but we shot a little better than they did (19 percent),” said Hendrix. “Sometimes after you come off a tournament win (at Oologah) like we did, it’s tough to get ready to play. I thought our defense tonight was maybe the best we’ve played all season holding them to 22 points.”
Hendrix also acknowledged the contribution of his bench on a night where none of his starters made it into double figures.
“Rayne came in and gave us a great lift. He’s got a nice shot and he hit some shots for us. Austin Gassaway also came in and hit a couple of 3-pointers that gave us a lift,” said Hendrix.
For the senior Cox, it was just another night of doing what was needed to help get the win.
“The team played good. I got some open shots and was glad to hit them and help the team,” said Cox.
After Cox’s 20, Coleman Crawley, Stephen Edwards and Gassaway each had eight points in the Tiger win. For the Bulldogs (2-6), Ya’Aquoob King and Anthony Ashley each had five points.
The Tigers will host Keys on Friday night while Wagoner will travel to Oologah.