By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
FORT GIBSON – Jerry Walker had a happy birthday on Monday.
The Fort Gibson High School girls basketball coach turned 50 years old and his Lady Tigers overcame a sluggish start to give him a gift – a 70-27 win against Wagoner’s Lady Bulldogs in the opening round of the Old Fort Classic at Harrison Field House.
The Lady Tigers only led 13-8 after the first period before roaring to a 39-14 halftime advantage.
“We didn’t have our intensity up in the first quarter and (Walker) talked to us,” Allie Glover, who sank 4-of-11 3-pointers for 12 points, said. “We started playing better in the second quarter and from then on.”
Walker, who notched his 400th career win in this tournament last year, said his team started playing man-to-man defense to increase its intensity.
“We came out kind of flat and coach (Mike) Blair had his team ready to play,” Walker said. “The man-to-man defense is a personal challenge to our players. We played better, but not perfect. Overall, it was one of those games that you win ugly.”
Ranked No. 2 in the Okrankings.com Class 4A poll, the Lady Tigers are sitting pretty as they remain perfect after 16 games with the win. It’s their third win against Wagoner this season, taking 59-25 and 72-34 victories.
Walker’s players wore pregame t-shirt with his name and age on the back. On the front, it said: Living on Walker Time. Several fans in the stands also wore the shirts.
Brooke Palmer led the Lady Tigers with 17 points, eight of which came in the second period. She also had six rebounds. Taylor London sank three 3-pointers in adding 11 points.
Gabby Roberts had eight points and Kristen Robbins added seven for the Lady Bulldogs (1-15).
Fort Gibson plays Eufaula or Stigler in the winner’s bracket at 7:20 p.m. Thursday. Stigler is coached by Jeff Walker, Jerry Walker’s son.
Eufaula and Stigler clash at 4:30 p.m. today. Hilldale meets Stilwell at 7:20 tonight in the other opening-round game.
Wagoner faces the Eufaula-Stigler loser at 7:20 p.m. Friday in the consolation bracket.
In the other girls game on Monday, Muldrow (12-3) beat Inola (10-7) 56-43 as Halee Sharp and Taza Eagle led the Lady Bulldogs with 11 points each. Casady Hughes added 10. Kristen Mootry led Inola with 13.
For Hilldale, the first quarter proved its undoing as the Hornets were outscored 19-9 by Muldrow’s Bulldogs in falling 65-52.
“I thought we gave good effort last Friday (in beating Wagoner), but we didn’t give very good effort in the first half of this game, especially in the first quarter,” Hilldale coach Jeremy Rogers said. “We gave up too many offensive rebounds and didn’t make enough hustle plays. It’s pretty disappointing after we had that big win.”
Rogers, though, saw some glimpses of hustle at the end of the game.
“We were able to cut it to 10 points, but we needed to play harder in the first half,” he said. “We just need to have better effort.”
Jordan Proctor led the Hornets (5-11) with 15 points and Hunter Harrison added 10.
Colton Keith topped Muldrow (10-5) with 20 points. Larry Moore scored 16 and Logan Coatney added 11.
The Hornets have a rematch with Wagoner at 5:50 p.m. Friday in the consolation bracket.
Wagoner led 30-23 at halftime, but Inola had a 12-0 scoring run in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth period as the Longhorns (11-5) toppled the Bulldogs (5-11) 63-44.
The Bulldogs scored only 14 points in the second half after leading 30-23 at halftime.
“I got kids at times that don’t play as hard as they should,” Wagoner coach Jason Giddens said. “We don’t respect the game of basketball like we should. We’re trying to correct that.”
Decarius Clark led the Bulldogs with 14 points. Lateze Clayton had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Travis Hall and Casey Gill led Inola with 12 points each. Zac Procter had 10 points. Gill also pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
In the winner’s bracket, Muldrow and Inola clash at 8:45 p.m. Thursday.
Fort Gibson begins tournament play at 5:50 p.m. today against Stigler. Eufaula meets Stilwell at 8:45 p.m. today in the other first round game.
Old Fort Classic
Boys: Stigler vs. Fort Gibson, 5:50 p.m.; Stilwell vs. Eufaula, 8:45 p.m.
Girls: Stigler vs. Eufaula, 4:30 p.m.; Stilwell vs. Hilldale, 7:20 p.m.