By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
BIXBY – Class 6A No. 6 Muskogee’s youth battled through a growing pain of adversity here Friday night.
Playing without the heart of its inside game in Lanice Rozell, who missed the trip due to a death in the family, Muskogee pushed through it to win with relative ease, 58-41, at Whitey Ford Field House.
“She’s our leading rebounder. That’s a double-double every game, so I told the girls we have some step it up,” MHS coach Doyle Rowland said. “It was an opportunity for some to get more playing time, for all of them to get their game. They took that and ran with it.”
Leave it up to a couple of other sophomores to lead the way.
Aaliyah Wilson was her typical self as the team’s top scorer, leading the way with 20 points. Jada Ford chipped in 17 points, overcoming a chilly 0-for-5 start, and with some role player support, the Lady Roughers won their sixth straight contest to move to 10-1 on the year. Bixby fell to 5-6.
“I was rushing my shot,” Ford said. “Once I hit that first one, I think I found my touch.”
Touches came in waves.
Wilson, who opened the game with a 3, didn’t score again until the 1:58 mark of the first quarter. Her team down 9-5, Wilson scored seven points on a 9-0 run to finish the quarter, making it 14-9.
Wilson missed her only two shots in the second. Her assist on a toss to Leigh Westbrook led to a three-point play that made it 17-13, then after Bixby answered with a basket, freshman Trena Mims took over the offense with three consecutive baskets for the Lady Roughers, capping it with a three-point play that made it 24-17.
Ford’s first connection with 1:37 to play made it a nine-point lead and freshman Brandi Nash came in off the bench for a steal in the final seconds and took it down for an uncontested pull-up just in front of the basket to match the biggest lead of the half, 30-21.
“I saw her coming so I was like ‘take it now,’” said Nash, who’s averaging less than five minutes per game. “It helped us finish the half on a good note.”
Ford also got Muskogee going after an 0-for-5 start to the third, hitting three straight baskets. Two of those misses was hers, pushing her into a 1-of-8 hole.
Wilson then turned her own blocked shot into a transition layup, and moments later would have a three-point play, giving Muskogee the 42-28 lead they’d own the remaining 56.9 seconds of the quarter.
Again off transition, Wilson converted a layup off her own steal with 6:24 left, making it 46-30. One possession later, Ford’s score on a putback with 5:38 to play made it an 18-point margin matched once more.
Mims had 9 points and Westbrook 7. Bixby sophomore guard Sydney Stout had 15 points for the Lady Spartans before the break but was held to two-second half points, still leading her team with 17.
Bixby 58, Muskogee 55
Tied at 11 after one, Muskogee (7-3) dug itself a hole in the second quarter, down 31-21 at the break. Six turnovers in the quarter hurt.
That lead grew to 43-29, then a pair of baskets by David Beasley got it to single digits. That’s where it stayed, thanks in part to a Rougher defense that helped create 12 second-half turnovers. But it was also Beasley’s offensive touch that had a huge hand. The senior, who had just four points at the half, finished with 24, including one of his four 3-point baskets that got it to 51-46 with 3:32 to play.
Up to that point Muskogee had come away empty on four opportunities trailing by eight and almost immediately, they gave it back. Bixby’s transition game led to a three-point play at the other end by Camden Selvidge, who drew a foul by Cantrell Ashley.
Beasley would hit another 3 with 20 seconds to play to get it within five, then hit two free throws on a 3-point foul with 6.6 seconds left. The Spartans inbounded and ran out the clock.
“David had a nice game, but it’s not on the offensive end that we win games,” MHS coach Josh Berry said. “It’s the defensive end, and we didn’t get the crucial stops when we needed.
“We fought hard, and we battled through some early foul trouble to try and get us in a position to win there at the end. But we have to get stops.”
Anthony King finished with 14 points. His three treys gave Muskogee seven on the night. Tramal Ivy had eight of Muskogee’s first-quarter points on 4-of-4 shooting inside. He finished with 13 points.
Spartan guard Joey Fiser had 22 to lead his team, now 10-4. Four of his baskets were 3s.
Both Muskogee squads go to tournament play next Thursday, the girls at Moore and the boys at Midwest City Carl Albert.