By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
OKTAHA – Oktaha boys coach Jim Glover wants his team to focus on defense and that’s what he got for the most part in Tuesday’s season opener versus Crowder.
The Tigers forced the Demons into 18 turnovers in downing Crowder 103-57 in Oktaha’s gym.
“We’re going to try and make it a 94-foot game,” Glover said. “The effort was there tonight and they played really, really hard. We had a lot of mistakes but you can’t fault the effort.”
The win was also career win No. 400 for Glover. When alerted to the fact after the game, he was humbled.
“Yeah, it’s good to get it now,” he said. “But a win’s a win. We got to get over this one and get ready. We come back after Thanksgiving in a tournament and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Tigers started the game riding the hot hand of Dustin Leach as he hit his first four shots, two from 3-point range, to give Oktaha a 23-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter. By the time the second quarter ended, Leach had 20 points and was 7-of-16 from the field, 4-of-9 from beyond the arc, and the Tigers were leading 47-23.
“It just comes to me,” Leach said. “I’ll get out there and if I’ve got an open shot, I’ll take it unless I see a teammate that’s closer. Some days you’re on, some days you’re off and tonight was one of the days I was on.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ defense was still keeping the pressure on as it held Crowder (2-2) to 23 points in the first half, forcing 11 turnovers and limiting the Demons to 32 percent shooting.
“We had a strategy going in that we were going to pick up full court,” said Leach who finished with a game-high 33 points. “We weren’t going to let them breathe at all. Coach told us to not give them an inch and that’s what we did.”
Two other Tigers reached the double figure plateau as Will Coplan and Michael Yahola had 10 points each. As a team, the Tigers shot 52 percent, hitting 44 of 84 shots including eight of 22 3-point attempts.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, the Tigers had built an 81-39 advantage and the only question was would they score 100 points. That question was answered with 1:24 remaining when Dylan Corley put in a layup to give the Tigers a 101-55 edge.
Oktaha 75, Crowder 32
The Lady Tigers ran out to a 10-0 lead and never looked back in defeating Crowder in their season opener. Most of the Lady Demons’ problems were caused by Oktaha’s defense as the Lady Tigers forced eight turnovers in the opening eight minutes to grab a 25-11 advantage at the end of the quarter.
Oktaha kept the pressure on in the second quarter, holding the Lady Demons (1-3) to six points to lead 43-17 at the break. Jaylie Roper poured in 15 points in the half, making all five of her shots, mostly from underneath the basket, and four free throws.
“When I see they’re more focused on the wing, I’ve just got to take advantage,” Roper said. “My team making their shots really helps too.”
Roper showed no signs of rustiness, having missed the preseason recovering from injuries, as she kept the perfection up by hitting all nine of her attempts for the game for 23 points. Two other Lady Tigers finished in double figures as Tye Edmundson and Shea Lynch finished 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Oktaha coach Chester Pittman was pleased with his team’s defense but saw the Lady Tigers had the look of a team playing its first game of the season.
“We’re really young,” Pittman said. “We made some silly mistakes and hopefully we’ll correct them as we go along. But the young girls did a really good job of pressuring up and being where they were supposed to be.”