By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
TULSA – In Muskogee coach Doyle Rowland’s estimation, it was like 13th-ranked Union was in his team’s locker room in pregame.
The result was a 60-48 win Tuesday at the palace known as the UMAC for the suddenly struggling Lady Roughers, who at 12-3 and No. 6 in the Class 6A rankings have dropped two of their last four.
Again, his assessment.
“The three strategies I had for us, they used. We stunk it up,” he said. “Rebounding, intensity, execution – they did all three and we didn’t do any of them much at all.”
In spurts, they did. As a team, and at the right times, not as much.
And again, in similar fashion to the area finals last March where the Lady Redskins stole a state berth from Muskogee, zone schemes on both ends of the floor seemed to take their toll, along with some sharpened Union defense in the second half.
Yet this mix of sophomores and freshmen – Muskogee’s only senior starter, Aerious King, did not play – wasn’t responsible for last year’s outcome.
“Our youth probably showed up tonight. The atmosphere and the hoopla up here might have had a part,” Rowland said. “Aerious was out with flu and I’m not sure we didn’t have some others under the weather but it’s still about basketball.”
Omaryana Lee drew the start for King. She had a free throw to her credit. The usual suspects didn’t do enough.
“We competed but we didn’t play to win,” Rowland said. There’s an intensity difference there.”
It was evident early on as Union (10-5) ran off to an 18-6 lead, thanks in a large part to six Muskogee turnovers in the opening quarter. The Lady Roughers cut it to 20-18 on a basket by Jada Ford, but Union guard Destiny Climpson answered on the ensuing possession and Muskogee wouldn’t get closer than four. That happened to be the halftime difference when Aaliyah Wilson, who had 13 first-half points, hit a layup and then her steal and subsequent feed to Ford made it a 27-23 game with 33.6 left in the half.
Back came Union and some tight, heads-up defense by freshman Parker Goins on Wilson helped hold her scoreless on eight shots until she connected on her only field goal of the second half with 41 seconds to play. Goins wasn’t much on offense with just seven points but had 11 rebounds. Muskogee went seven possessions without scoring after Ford had missed a pair of free throws that would have tied the game with 4:30 to play at 31 all. Ford had 22 points, 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Wilson, who blocked three shots in the first half, finished with 19 points. Lanice Rozell had a team-high 16 rebounds to go with eight points.
Three Redskins hit double figures scoring-wise, all seniors: Forward Esther Udoumoh had 15 points with guard Destiny Climpson with 13 and another forward, Olivia Pendley, with 11.
Friday’s game at home against Sapulpa is Breast Cancer Awareness Night with tipoff at 6 p.m.
“Sapulpa’s beat Union twice,” Rowland noted. “We need to regroup before we put ourselves in a tough position for seeding.”