By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
CATOOSA – After a long postgame talk with his team, a dejected Muskogee coach Doyle Rowland was still searching for answers as to why.
“Tough night. All I can say,” he said.
His statement was on target. Little else was, and answers are needed for a quick recovery for Rowland and his No. 2 ranked team after being dominated by No. 6 Tulsa Washington in a 57-42 Class 6A East Area final at Catoosa High School on Thursday.
The state-bound Lady Hornets (24-2) looked poised and smooth, especially offensively after taking most of the first quarter to get into sync. The Lady Roughers, meanwhile, had a couple of surges, one giving them a first quarter advantage they would soon lose for good, forcing them into a back-door game for the other state berth from the bracket against Union, a 55-39 winner over Jenks in the late game Thursday. That game will be back here at 3 p.m. Saturday.
With the Lady Hornets up 4-0, Muskogee (20-6) answered with a 12-4 run, sparked by Sydni Carter’s back-to-back baskets to get the Lady Roughers on the board three minutes deep into the game. MiKayla Alexander hit a 3 at the buzzer from the right wing to put Washington back on top 13-12 at the quarter’s end. It also started what amounted to an 18-6 run to make it a 26-18 Lady Hornets’ advantage with 4:47 until half.
That lead grew to 40-25 in the third quarter, a quarter where all 11 of Muskogee’s points were scored by forward Mari Jackson. Kelsey McClure, the team’s leading scorer all season, was held without a field goal in the second half, missing all three of her shots. The second of two free throws with 3:08 to play was her only point of the half. She had 11 before the break.
Alexus Wilson had six points on 2-of-13 shooting and Aaliyah Wilson with as many blocked shots – three – on one end as she had points on the other.
It was an offense that collectively never found itself.
“We really didn’t ever attack like we normally do,” Jackson said.
“Our plan of attack was to be very deliberate and to take them out of their running game,” Washington coach Annette Kennedy said. “In doing that we were able to keep the ball on our end and we got a lot of shots we wanted. We know they’re big and athletic but when we did that right, we got a lot of shots off it.”
After a 6-of-18 first quarter, the Lady Hornets were right at 50 percent (17-of-35) the rest of the way. Muskogee was 15-of-46 (32.5 percent), but managed a second push in the early portion of the fourth quarter.
Consecutive baskets by Alexus Wilson, Aaliyah Wilson and Jackson closed the gap to 46-39 with 6:37 to play. With three chances to make it a five-point game, the Lady Roughers came up empty. When MaKenzie Ellis, Washington’s 6-foot-1 sophomore post snatched away a potential tie-up off a missed shot and dropped in a 3-foot bank shot with 4:20 to play, the Lady Hornets were back up by double-digits.
Jackson, who finished as the game’s leading scorer with 17 thanks mostly to carrying the team alone through the third quarter, answered at the other end shortly thereafter. Muskogee would not score another basket.
Alexander, McClure’s cousin, led Washington with 13 points. Senior forward Rachel Block had 11.
Former Muskogee boys coach Terry Scott slipped in to give Rowland’s team a pep talk. Jackson tried to feed off that.
“We’re mad,” Jackson said. “But like he told us, we can’t think about this one any more.”
Or play like it Saturday.