MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 1, 2014

Thrice is nice for MHS

Muskogee sweeps Sapulpa, gets Union tonight in regional final

By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer

— TULSA – Most coaches will tell you it’s hard to beat one team three times in the same season.

For the Muskogee Roughers, the Sapulpa Chieftains gave them no problems on Friday as the Roughers eliminated the Chieftains 67-51 in the Class 6A East regional at the Union Multipurpose Activity Center.

“Our guys just played hard,” said Muskogee coach Josh Berry. ‘And things just went our way tonight. Both teams played really hard and that’s a great team and a great coach.”

Berry, in his second year, gets the Roughers back to the area round of the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. They’ll face Union, an 80-49 winner against Enid,  in today’s regional final but even with a loss would advance to next week’s consolation round. Win and they’d be a victory away from their first state berth in four seasons.

After beating the Chieftains by four points in their first meeting and three in the second, the Roughers put this game away early, stretching a 14-10 lead after one to 29-17 at the half and 50-25 at the end of three.

And it was the shooting that paved the way as Muskogee (12-10) connected on 57.8 percent of its shots (26 of 45) while limiting Sapulpa (7-17) to 44.4 percent (16 of 36).

“We’ve been working on our defense all year,” Berry said. “They just finally started to listen a little bit.”

The Roughers also showed they could protect the ball by committing just six turnovers through the first three quarters while forcing 16 in the same time frame.

“We just had a hard week of practice,” said Tramal Ivy, who led the Roughers with 15 points. “Going at each other hard, our second team was just like Sapulpa goes at us. So that was a good look.”

The key to the game was the start of the second quarter when the Roughers took control. Muskogee opened the period with a 9-1 run to lead 23-11 with 2:37 left. Ivy knew that his team could not get overconfident coming out of the locker room, nor fall into a trap of a team that employed a chippy approach to try and get MHS to lose control in the previous meetings.

“We just wanted to stay calm and play our game,” Ivy said. “We tried not to get into any fighting and just stayed focus.”

After Sapulpa cut the Roughers lead to 29-21 to start the third, Muskogee went on a 12-2 run to grab a 41-23 lead with 3:44 remaining and stretch it to a 25-point advantage heading into the final eight minutes.

Besides Ivy, Cantrell Ashley ended the night in double figures, finishing with 11 points. Ben Johnson scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Chieftains while Sam Gottsch added 14.

“We shared the ball really well tonight,” Berry said. “We made the extra passes. Things we’ve been talking about all year long, we did it tonight.”

Ironically, Friday’s scenario will emerge in reverse order tonight as Muskogee and Union meet for the third time. The Roughers are 0-2 against the Redskins, with the most recent meeting a 72-57 loss last week at MHS. Union (22-2) won 69-52 here in January.