By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
VIAN – What a difference a day makes.
After falling to the Keys Lady Cougars 43-39 on Monday, the Vian Lady Wolverines wanted to get back on the winning track quickly. And that they did, beating the Oktaha Lady Tigers 54-32 in Vian on Tuesday.
It was the Lady Wolverines’ full-court pressure defense that paved the way, forcing 30 turnovers while only committing five, three of which came in the fourth quarter.
“It’s hard to say how much (Monday’s) loss affected the girls tonight,” said Vian coach Jordan Garner. “It took us a while to get started but that’s credit to them. They played hard.”
In the first half, Vian, 18-2 and No. 9 in Class 3A, showed a little lag from the night before as Oktaha (19-5) scored the first five points of the first quarter.
Vian turned up the pressure on defense and responded by going on a 9-0 run for a 9-5 lead with 5:36 left in the quarter and kept the four-point advantage for the remainder of the stanza, leading 19-15 after the first eight minutes.
“We have a game like last night where our shots weren’t falling, we’ve got to step up on defense,” said Vian’s Nese Walters. “Since coach Garner has come here, defense has been what it’s all about. He knows when we get into the playoffs, if we can play tough defense and get some scoring, we’ll be all right.”
The Lady Tigers opened the second quarter with another 5-0 run to re-take the lead at 20-19. That would be all the scoring Oktaha would do for the half as Vian closed out the second quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 27-20 lead into the locker room.
The third quarter is when Vian took over, outscoring Oktaha 18-10 and forcing seven turnovers to stretch its lead 45-30.
“They hit some 3s in the third period that they weren’t hitting early,” said Oktaha coach Chester Pittman. “But we started turning the ball over and moving some people around and just making young mistakes.”
Garner said the pace Vian set had something to do with those mistakes.
“I told them if we keep this pace up we’re going to give up 60 points,” Garner said. “And we’ve only given up 40 points twice this year and were 0-2 when that happens.”
Both those losses were to 3A Keys. Two of Oktaha’s losses have come in two meetings with the Wolverines.
Walters led Vian, recording a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Desiree Moon had 13 points and Erica Casey finished with 11. Kelsey Cantwell was the only Lady Tiger to crack the double-digit plateau, finishing with 12 points.
Garner said that this would probably not be last meeting between the two schools.
“This is a great way to finish (the regular season),” he said. “They’ve won 19 ball games. That’s a great ball club and they’re in our region.”
Vian 63, Oktaha 34
It was close for the first eight minutes, but after that it was all Vian as the Wolverines stretched a four-point advantage after the first quarter to 15 at halftime on the way to the win.
Oktaha (9-14) started the game with three 3s, two by Dustin Leach and one by Will Coplan. After that, Vian (11-9) started to extend its defense and Oktaha began missing shots.
“Soon as we saw that Leach wasn’t on fire, we just stuck to our game plan and tried to trap him as much as possible,” said Eric Casey who led the Wolverines with 17 points. “The only guy that was killing us was (Coplan). Coach said in the second half we had to come out and guard him.”
And guard him they did as Coplan finished with 10 points, all in the first half. Leach led the Tigers with 18 points.
Besides Casey, two other Vian players finished in double figures with Mason Kittrell ending the game with 16 points while Denver Coffee had 13 points.
“We’ve been playing a lot of 2-3 zone, trying to trap the shooters,” said Vian coach Anthony Porter. “It’s been allowing us to keep our big guys in rebounding position and it’s been working out.”
Oktaha coach Jim Glover could point to one statistic that doomed his squad. The Tigers shot 29.5 percent from the field (13 for 44) while Vian connected on 47.1 percent (16 of 34) of its shots.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well,” he said. “When you don’t shoot it very well, nothing works.”