By Nick Hampton
FORT GIBSON – Fort Gibson’s Grace Parker has drawn her coach’s praise the last several weeks about her relentless defense.
But the Lady Tigers junior showed she has some offensive chops too as she put in eight fourth-quarter points to help lead Class 4A’s top ranked and undefeated Fort Gibson Lady Tigers to a come-from-behind 58-51 victory over seventh-ranked Vinita Monday night at Harrison Field House.
Parker credits the whole Lady Tigers team in helping get the win on Senior Night.
“As a team we knew we had to come together for Savanna (Gray, the lone senior on the roster) and we knew we had to keep up the pressure,” said Parker. “We hadn’t been scoring so well, but we hit some big shots at the end and the pressure defense is what got us the win.”
The Tigers (22-0) saw an eight-point lead early in the second quarter shrink to two, 25-23, at intermission. The Lady Hornets outscored Fort Gibson 8-2 out of the gate in the third quarter to lead 31-27, and, after a couple of lead changes, ran off a six-point spurt to lead 39-32 with 1:47 to play in the third quarter.
Vinita (17-5) continued to hold the lead until Gray nailed a three-pointer with five minutes to play in the final quarter to regain the lead for good for the Lady Tigers 44-43. Full-court defensive pressure by Fort Gibson forced seven turnovers in the final period by Vinita.
The Lady Hornets also got into foul problems, putting the Lady Tigers in the double bonus with almost five minutes still to play. Fort Gibson made Vinita pay as they nailed seven-of-eight free throws down the stretch.
Clinging to a two point lead with 3:35 to play, the Lady Tigers rattled off five unanswered points to open up a 54-47 lead, and from there Fort Gibson played keep away, forcing Vinita to foul, and secured the win.
Besides Parker, coach Jerry Walker had praise for several players and some criticism for the head coach.
“Our full court took its toll on our legs, but we got some good help off the bench with Izzy Hubbard and freshman Kabree Edgmon giving us some quality minutes,” he said. “Savanna had a tough night, but she hit that big three that put us back on top. We’re a tough-minded team and it starts with our senior Savanna.
“She didn’t have a great overall night, but she weathered through it and still played a good ball game. On the down side, we didn’t do a very good job of keeping (Carsyn) Spurgeon out of the lane. That was one of our goals and we stunk at that, and since I’m the coach, I have to take the hit for that.”
Spurgeon, the Vinita sophomore, had a game-high 28 points and was the only Lady Hornets player in double figures. Allie Glover led the scoring for the Lady Tigers with 15 points followed by Desiree Phipps and Parker with 11 points each and Gray had 10.
FGHS 84, Vinita 54
After a slow start, the sixth-ranked Tigers used eight Vinita turnovers and 12 second-quarter points by Jordan London to forge a 19-point halftime lead and rolled to the easy win.
“We’re normally a better shooting team in the early going,” said Tigers’ coach Gary Hendrix. “But, yeah, in the second quarter we started hitting some shots, changed our defense a little and forced turnovers and got some easy baskets.”
London, like the rest of the Tigers (19-3), started slow with a scoreless first quarter, but made some adjustments to spark the second quarter surge.
“I wasn’t hitting my shots from the outside, so I started trying to penetrate and my teammates got me the ball inside. I also got a couple of offensive rebounds and was able to put them back in,” said London.
London topped out with 23 points to lead the Tigers while Coleman Crawley added 15, Dalton Cunningham and Chris Simpson contributed 14 points each in the win.
For Vinita (9-11), coached by former Muskogee coach Tony Roach, Ethan Gibson was the leading scorer with 15 points, all from beyond the arc, and Zac King had 14 points.