By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Five games still remain, but for the purpose of playoff seeding, Muskogee made its final statement Friday night.
The Lady Roughers filed their 11th consecutive win, a 75-67 homecoming victory over Broken Arrow, at Ron Milam Gymnasium. Whether that's enough is now up to the coaches votes as those will seed the region next week.
Bear with us: Muskogee (16-2, 7-2 Frontier Conference) came in ranked No. 3 overall in the Okrankings Class 6A coaches poll. Bixby, with one loss at Muskogee, stood at No. 2 and topped the separate coaches ranking of the 16 east teams. No. 5 Bartlesville, ranked two spots behind Muskogee in the overall poll, is second in the weightier coaches ranking of the 16 teams on the east side of the bracket.
Go figure. The west side coaches love Doyle Rowland's team a little more, if only it would count.
But for what it's worth, Bixby fell for the fourth time this season, 66-35, to Union on Friday and earlier this week, Bartlesville lost to 5A No. 2 East Central 60-44 and snapped a two-game losing streak on Thursday with a 49-47 win over the same Lady Tigers MHS faced Friday. Toree Thompson, who had 20 points in Friday’s contest, missed a layup at the buzzer that would have forced overtime in BA’s loss to Bartlesville on Tuesday.
“You’d figure,” Rowland said when asked if he ends up the top seed on this half of the state. “It hasn’t seemed that way so far, but you’d figure it would. We’ll see.”
What he’d like to also see is his defense turn it up a notch or two.
Broken Arrow (10-7, 5-4) never led after freshman forward Darian Jackson scored the first points of the game, but was within 63-62 on 23's free throws with 4:46 to play. The Lady Tigers went six minutes in the fourth quarter without a field goal and ended up 3-of-13 in the period, most of which were blown open looks.
The Lady Roughers led by as many as 18, 30-12 midway through the second quarter.
“They quit listening,” Rowland said of his team. “We’ve got to bottle people up. Rebounding is a want-to. We’ve depended on outscoring our opponent. But in the playoffs, defense is going to be the key. We’ve got to listen and we’ve got to buckle down on our defense.”
Lady Roughers point guard Kelsey McClure heard what he said coming into the game.
“He said we needed this game and we knew that,” she said. “I just think when we got up 18 (in the first half) into a timeout, whatever the reason, we lost our focus as a team.”
With the lead at one, Alexus Wilson's 3 made it a four-point game and Muskogee would go on from there. McClure, who had 30 points through three quarters including a 10-of-12 run at the free-throw line in the first half, had one point, on a free throw, in the fourth, and finished with eight rebounds. Wilson, Mari Jackson and Aliyah Wilson picked up the offensive slack with two field goals each. Alexus Wilson had 13 points, Jackson 10 and Aliyah Wilson 8.
“I know they if I can’t score my team can score and they’ve got to the point where they realize they can too,” McClure said.
Broken Arrow 60, Muskogee 45
Muskogee battled back from considerable deficits twice and had to finish without its starting point guard, who fell head first into the floor after a shot in the lane with 3:22 to play. But in the end, the Roughers were again denied reaching the .500 mark, falling to 8-10 and 4-5.
It was a 24-6 game after a 12-0 run by No. 5 BA that carried into the second quarter, but a 10-0 run got the Roughers back in it. Anthony King had two baskets in that rally with David Beasley hitting a basket and two free throws.
Jordan Phelps’ 10 points in the first 2:36 of the second half, two 3s and layup off his own steal, made a 42-26 advantage. Moments after the time out sophomore forward Trenton Cantrell’s jumper made it a 44-28 game. But back came the Roughers on a 14-0 run to make it a two-point game going into the fourth quarter.
BA started the fourth on a 6-0 run to go up 50-42. It was 51-45 when Beasley went down. He walked off the floor on his own and was in the locker room at game’s end.
Quintahj Cherry replaced him, and his basket to go along with an assist on a feed underneath to Aaron Givens made it a 52-49 game with 1:48 to play. Muskogee wouldn't score again and the Tigers hit six free throws, one to cap a three-point play by Cantrell.
King, who had two first-quarter points, finished with 17, including nine in the third-quarter rally. Beasley had 12 when he left the game. Tramal Ivy had eight points and seven rebounds, but it was Givens, a 6-6 sophomore who typically comes off the bench, who showed up on this night on the boards, getting a season-high 14 in a starting role.
“If you want to win the big games, you got to make layups and free throws and I think we made our fair share of those,” MHS coach Josh Berry said.
His team was 8-of-16 from the line.
“Givens stepped up. I challenged him before the game and he came through. Hopefully we can keep getting more from our other role players,” Berry said.
Phelps, BA's 6-2 senior guard, had 24 points to lead the Tigers (13-4, 7-2).
Muskogee’s teams are home Tuesday for the final time this season to play Owasso. The Roughers then close with four road games.