By Nick Hampton
HASKELL — The Beatles sang “All you need is love.”
But the Haskell Haymakers needed Love — center Michael Love — plus speedy point guard Alex Wheeland to complete their victory song Tuesday night as they avenged an earlier season loss to the Checotah Wildcats with a fast-paced 80-72 win at the Franklin Event Center.
Love dominated the inside defensively while scoring 23 points and Wheeland led all scorers with 24 points, eight in the final quarter as the Haymakers improved to 4-10 on the season.
“We were leading most of the game and we let down a little bit. But fortunately we picked it back up at the end,” Haymaker coach Jay Dixon said.
Love and Wheeland combined for 18 first-quarter points as Haskell broke out to a 26-15 advantage. But with Love on the bench in foul trouble much of the second quarter, the Wildcats took advantage and outscored the Haymakers 22-14 to trail by just three at halftime, 40-37.
Checotah (10-9) tied the game at 42-42 on a 3-pointer by Cameron Pipe early in the third quarter and the lead changed hands four times over the next four minutes. With the Wildcats leading 52-51, Haskell scored six of the final seven points in the quarter to lead 57-52.
Love also pulled down 13 rebounds, blocked four shots and forced many an altered shot on drives into the paint by the Wildcats. His play has much improved over the season, according to Dixon.
“Everything centers around him being 6-6 and controlling the middle,” Dixon said. “He’s improved all year long and teams are seeing his improvement too as coach (Jason Dowdy of Checotah) just told me.”
Forward Wes Davis had 10 points to round out the Haymakers, while the Wildcats had a balanced attack with Pipe scoring 14 points, Braylon Warrior and Derek White with 13 each and DeShawn Jackson adding 12.
Haskell 60, Checotah 52
Senior Sherrell McHenry scored 10 of her game high 22 points in the fourth quarter to help the Lady Haymakers to the win.
“She also had 10 rebounds tonight for her eighth double-double of the season,” Haskell coach Rick Kirkhart said. “She knows that when she’s not clicking we have difficulty winning, so she stepped it up a notch in the last quarter.”
For McHenry, who has verbally committed to play at Connors State College next season, it was just matter of stepping up in the clutch.
“They’re a tough opponent and I just knew I had to step up in the last quarter and help my teammates,” she said.
The Lady Haymakers (10-9) were cruising with a 17-point lead at 34-17 late in the first half. But the Lady Wildcats stormed back, outscoring Haskell 17-7 over the next eight minutes to cut it to a 41-34 deficit late in the third quarter. Kirkhart called a timeout.
“We had been pressing them early in the game and that helped us open up the lead, but then we got away from it,” he said. “So during the timeout,I told the girls we’re going back to the press and get after it and play our kind of basketball.”
Checotah (3-16) managed to get within two points at 44-42 early in the final period before Mc Henry went on her tear. It was still close at 52-49 when Checotah missed five shots in one possession and that hurt, Checotah coach Vaughn Blankenship said.
“We get a good look, we miss the shot, miss the tip, get it back out and miss three more times,” he said. “We’re young and those things happen, but I was very proud of the girls tonight.”
Besides McHenry, Tashay Love had 13 points and Nicki Bolding 12 for the Lady Haymakers. Checotah was paced by Katelyn Donathan with 14 points, followed closely by Katie Smith with 12 and Lacie Blankenship with 10.
The Haymakers are home again Thursday to take on Oktaha while Checotah will be home to Eufaula on Friday.