MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

March 23, 2013

The 2012-13 All-Phoenix girls basketball team: Postseason honor eases pain for Lady Rougher

She was trying to get a five-second call. The referee called a hand-check.

With that, and 3 minutes and change on the clock in the Class 6A East Area consolation final, Kelsey McClure’s high school career ended in a much different way than she had designed it, denied a second consecutive state tournament trip in a year that they were, for a while, one of the favorites to play through Saturday and a championship matchup.

Suffocated in a box-and-one, the Muskogee High senior left with her only single-digit game of the year.

Area coaches and media will remember her for her body of work and not her final minutes. The 5-foot-7 guard was voted as the Most Valuable Player on the 2012-13 All-Phoenix team after a season where she posted averages of 21.5 points, 2.5 steals, 2.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

“The (championship) ring was something I wanted. That didn’t end well and to go out like I did really killed me,” she said. “I wanted to finish with something more but knowing people are saying about you, ‘ you did your part, you did your job, you didn’t slack.’ Before I left, that was what I wanted to show.”

Her head coach, Doyle Rowland, is one of those.

“She has the kind of will that drives her and will make her superior in most athletic endeavors,” he said.

McClure said her relationship with assistant coach Shonika Breedlove, a former Roughers standout herself, helped push her.

“One of the things a lot of freshmen should realize coming in to that program is something I got from her,” she said. “I was pretty good coming out of (Alice Robertson Junior High) but I didn’t know it all and had to learn like everyone else. And even though I was starting, it wasn’t learning in baby steps. She said you were going to learn now.

“She wouldn’t let up on me. If I made a mistake, it wasn’t like ‘oh, we’ll get it right next time.’ She was in my face saying ‘we’re going to fix it now.’ I will never forget when there’s a coach in my ear it’s going to make me think about her.”

Which coach that is remains unclear. Kansas is a school that has made a late push.

“I’m complex when it comes to that. Right now, at this point, I’ll just say I’ve got what I want out there,” she said.

McClure edged out Fort Gibson’s Brooke Palmer, who capped her career averaging a double-double in points and rebounds at the Class 4A state tournament. Palmer, who averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds on the year, was joined by teammates Allie Glover and Savannah Gray on the team. McClure’s teammate, Oral Roberts signee Alexus Wilson, joins them.

Eufaula’s Alyssa Banks was third in the voting, just ahead of Glover.

Rounding out the team are Midway guard Hailey Truesdell, Oktaha guard Jaylie Roper, Haskell forward Sherrell McHenry, Hulbert guard Allison Arnall and Sequoyah guard Courtney Jones, who helped her team to a 3A quarterfinal appearance at state.

This year’s Newcomer of the Year is Hilldale freshman guard Katie Kirkhart, whose averages of 13 points, 2 steals, 3 assists and 2 rebounds helped the Lady Hornets to a 17-9 season, their best since 1997.

Fort Gibson’s Jerry Walker won Coach of the Year for the third consecutive season. Two of those ended in state championships, the latter to cap a 29-1 campaign which may have gotten him the edge in the voting over second-place Chad Walker (no relation) of Tahlequah, who overcame the in-season loss of three starters and got Tahlequah to the Class 5A state tournament for the first time since 2001.

“Any time you lose that many kids especially with who everyone thinks is your best player (Desiree Phipps), that says a lot,” the FGHS coach said.

Neither Phipps, who was lost with a knee injury in December, nor any teammates were among the top 11 vote-getters by members of the Phoenix and Tahlequah Daily Press staff and area coaches. That is the number, with a newcomer added, that is annually allowed for inclusion to the team.

As he has each time he’s won the award, Walker adamantly shared credit with his assistants, Chuck London and Denise Gray. So which job did the staff do a better job with, the 2011 state champion or the 2013 champ?

“Wow,” he said. “One, you take a group of kids who were undefeated who knock off the defending champ who had everybody back and won by 40 in the finals the year before,” he said. “This year you run through the state tournament by average margin of 15 with a group that no one is knocking down their doors to recruit.

“There’s probably not a nickel’s difference, but I’d always take a year where with 2 minutes to play you’re up 14 because I liked not having to make a last-minute adjustment.”

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