By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
FORT GIBSON – For the fifth time in six years, the Muldrow Lady Bulldogs met the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers in the girls championship game of the Old Fort Classic at Harrison Field House on Saturday.
And for the fifth time in six years, the Lady Tigers came out on top, applying its trademark pressure defense to romp past the Lady Bulldogs 63-38.
And now, for the 10th straight year, the Lady Tigers hold the title hardware, with yet another dominating performance, start to finish.
“It’s never over with a good team like Muldrow,” said Fort Gibson coach Jerry Walker, whose squad is now 99-3 over the last three seasons. “You never let off the gas pedal against a good ball club.”
The Lady Tigers, 14-0 and No. 1 in Class 4A, forced 14 turnovers in the first half in racing out to a 36-13 advantage. Muldrow (7-7) shot 35.9 percent for the game (14 of 39) and turned the ball over 22 times the entire game.
“We don’t worry about the halftime score,” said Savannah Gray, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “It doesn’t matter what the score is at halftime. It’s 0-0 to us.”
The Lady Bulldogs started the third quarter showing they weren’t going to quit, hitting back to back 3s by Riley Hughes and Jarrah Reynolds, respectively. Walker immediately called a timeout to get his squad re-focused.
“They hit the 3s right off the bat and we were kind of sluggish,” Walker said. “And then we’re putting them at the free-throw line. We needed to make sure to let them know that we’re not giving up on the sideline. That’s why we’re hollering at them.”
And whatever the coach said during the timeout hit home, as the Lady Bulldogs went to the line only once more in the period and a total of 14 times for the game.
“We know in Muldrow’s last game, they got a bunch of free throws, like 20 in the first half,” said Desiree Phipps who finished with a game-high 20 points. “We just wanted to keep them off the free-throw line and we did that.”
While some fans have come to expect the Lady Tigers to be in the championship game, Phipps knows not to take it for granted.
“We don’t like to get it in our heads and be nervous about it,” Phipps said. “We always talk about we have to keep the tradition going. We just play our game and don’t worry about it.”
Besides Gray being named MVP, Phipps and teammate Grace Parker were named to the All-Tournament team along with Muldrow’s Alex Butcher, Sydni Rainbolt from Keys and Lexi Williams from Inola.