By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Muskogee’s Aaron Givens changed his mind at the right time and the Roughers are glad he did.
After stealing a Sapulpa inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds left in a tie game, the 6-foot-7 junior was going to hold the ball for overtime, but heard his teammates yelling to shoot the ball.
He then made a turnaround 3-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer to lift Muskogee over Sapulpa 44-41 on Friday at Ron Milam Gymnasium on Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
“To tell you the truth, I thought I had missed it,” Givens said concerning his release. “But then I saw it going up real high and I knew it was in.”
To view Givens' game-winning shot, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DucYwa3fsk.
As the ball went through the net, causing an eruption from the Muskogee fans, Givens was mobbed by his teammates.
Muskogee coach Josh Berry said the atmosphere throughout the game was like a playoff game.
“That was definitely February madness – two teams fighting for a playoff berth,” he said. “That was a great play for Aaron. He had a good night and has been through a lot this last year and to make a play like that, it’s big for him.”
The Roughers improved to 10-5 on the year while the Chieftains fell to 6-12. The win also gave Muskogee a sweep of the season series, having beat Sapulpa 58-55 on Dec. 3 in the third game of the season.
“We just kept our heads up,” Givens said. “These are must-win games and tonight we won.”
Givens finished the game with nine points, along with Lavare Reed, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, and Cantrell Ashley. Anthony King led Muskogee with 10 points and Friday’s win helped erase the bad feeling from the Roughers’ 69-52 loss at Tulsa Union last Tuesday.
“Coach just told us to show some heart and effort,” King said. “He told us to block out more on defense and get some stops.”
The game was tight from start to finish, though Sapulpa led from the opening basket until Ashley made a breakaway layup to give Muskogee its first lead at 34-32 with 22.6 left in the third, only to see Sapulpa’s Alex Ogunseye complete a dunk at the end of the period to send the game into the final eight minutes tied at 34-34.
The final quarter saw one tie and six lead changes, the final one coming on Givens’ heroic shot.
“Our bench played really well tonight,” Berry said. “That was a great team win, a great team win.”
Givens took up some slack caused by the absence of the Roughers’ top scorer and rebounder, Tramal Ivy, who had to sit out after being assessed a double technical and an ejection against Union on Tuesday.
MHS 43, Sapulpa 36
During the first quarter, the Lady Roughers couldn’t get out of their own way, committing nine turnovers and six fouls and falling behind 13-5 to the Lady Chieftains at the end of the period.
However, Muskogee, 13-3 and No. 6 in Class 6A, picked up its defensive intensity, holding Sapulpa to a free throw in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to two at halftime, 14-12, then pulled away in the second half for the win.
We came out the same old lackadaisical way that we had been doing the last two out of four games,” said Muskogee coach Doyle Rowland. “But I told the girls that Darlean Calip is a heck of a coach and she expected us to come out like a house on fire because that’s the way we did up there.
“I wasn’t really upset because I wanted to make sure my defense was working and kept us in the game.”
The Lady Roughers turned the ball over only three times in each of the middle two quarters and grabbed a 28-22 advantage with one quarter remaining. With 2:06 left in the fourth quarter, Muskogee had a 41-29 lead and only one turnover for the period, but committed five turnovers the rest of the way, allowing the No. 11 Lady Chieftains (11-7) to creep within seven, 41-34, with 34.7 seconds left.
Muskogee’s Aaliyah Wilson had a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds), both game-highs. At halftime, Wilson knew what had to be done to pull out the win
“I guess we came out not focused and not prepared,” she said. “We knew they were coming and weren’t going to back down. We had to slow them down, play our game and show them what they were going to get the rest of the night.”
Muskogee is at Sand Springs on Tuesday with the girls’ game tipping off at 6 p.m. followed by the boys game.