By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
After a scare from Locust Grove on Tuesday, the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers knew that they needed to control all aspects of the game at Hilldale on Thursday.
And that’s exactly what the Lady Tigers did, holding the Lady Hornets to 30.6 percent shooting, forcing 13 turnovers and outrebounding by a 35-21 count to win 69-44 at the Hilldale Event Center.
“We know what was waiting on us over here,” said Fort Gibson coach Jerry Walker. “Hilldale played hard and I thought our kids did a good job playing hard.”
Hilldale kept the game close for the first half, trailing Fort Gibson 34-25 after the first 16 minutes. However, Hilldale coach Scott Hensley knew that in the Lady Tigers were going to show their muscle in the second half.
“They’re big and physical,” Hensley said. “They’re well-coached and controlled the boards. We were trying to stress that we’ve got to rebound with them and it’s hard to do.”
Susie Kilpatrick was a dominant force in the middle for Fort Gibson, No. 1 in Class 4A at 20-0. Kilpatrick ended the game with a double-double — 17 points and 10 rebounds — and knew the play on the inside was going to be critical if the Lady Tigers were to win.
“(Coaches) told me before that was going to be one of the keys to the game,” said Kilpatrick. “Whenever I do my job when we get the ball inside, that opens up the outside and I can just pass it to the wide-open person.”
Hilldale opened the scoring when Kenzie Mize connected on a mid-range jumper. Fort Gibson’s Jayme Hill, who finished with a game-high 18 points, tied the score on the Lady Tigers’ next possession and put Fort Gibson on top for good 4-2 at the 6:53 mark of the quarter with another mid-range bucket.
Allie Glover’s 3 extended the Lady Tigers’ lead to 7-2 and that bucket seemed to open up the offense. After Casady Mills and McKensie Plant scored for Hilldale, cutting the deficit to 7-6, Glover, who finished with 11 points, and Gray converted 3-pointers to make the score 13-6.
“Coach told us we need to start driving too,” Hill said. “They started fronting and backing Susie and we knew they wouldn’t help off.”
Those back-to-back 3s sparked a 12-0 run. By the time Katie Kirkhart converted two free throws for Hilldale, Desiree Phipps had made a layup and Kilpatrick had two putback baskets and two free throws to make the score 19-8.
Hilldale stayed within striking distance, trailing 23-16 after the first quarter and 34-25 at halftime. In the third quarter, Fort Gibson clamped down on defense and held Hilldale to eight points, stretching its advantage to 49-33.
Mills led Hilldale with 11 points while Plant finished the game with 10 points.
The win helped Fort Gibson get ready for three games in the next five days, starting with Catoosa tonight at Fort Gibson, leading into next week’s districts.
“We just focus on the next game that we’re about to play,” Hill said.
Fort Gibson 72, Hilldale 40
The Tigers applied defensive pressure from the opening tap in dominating the Hornets at Harrison Field House on Friday.
Fort Gibson limited Hilldale to 30.8 percent shooting (4 of 13) in the first quarter, racing out to a 27-9 advantage, improving to 17-3 on the year.
While the Hornets (8-11) were struggling to make shots, No. 6 Fort Gibson made 10 of 17 shots in the quarter. Fort Gibson coach Gary Hendrix said the start was the key to the Tigers’ play.
“We had pretty good balance in scoring,” he said. “We had guys that could hit from the outside and we’ve got guys that can score on the inside and that’s a good combination.”
Four Tigers ended the game in double figures with Dalton Cunningham pouring in a game-high 23 points. He missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Stephen Edwards had 12 points and nine rebounds while Jordan London and Coleman Crawley had 11 points each.
Bill Muse was the only Hornet to end the game in double figures with 13 points.
Edwards said the game he had was exactly what was needed for the Tigers to beat their rival.
“Our biggest thing is picking up rebounds, put them back and finding open teammates,” he said. “Just keeping each other going, you could say.”
Cunningham was aware early on that he was going to be a major factor in the outcome of the game.
“I just played for my teammates to give me good passes,” he said. “I think our loss to Locust Grove on Tuesday prepared us for tonight. This is a big rivalry game and we were ready.”
“Fort Gibson’s pretty good and they’re way bigger than us,” Hilldale coach Jeremy Rogers said. “We’re 7-5 in our last 12 and it’s not like we’re playing bad. They’re just a good team.”