By Nick Hampton
OKTAHA – In an afternoon of shaking the rust from a two-week layoff, a pair of veterans stepped up in the fourth quarter of their respective games and helped the Oktaha boys and girls remain unbeaten on the year with a sweep of the Henryetta Knights on Friday.
The boys contest saw two top-10 ranked teams going at it with the Tigers, No. 2 in the Okrankings.com Class 2A poll, outdistancing the Knights, No. 8 in Class 3A, 65-50.
Neither team looked overpowering in the first half as both shot about 30 percent from the field. But with Dustin Leach scoring 13 of his 18 points in the first half and Christian McIntosh getting nine of his 11 points in the half, the Tigers managed a 32-25 advantage at intermission.
The Knights (7-2) hung in the game in the third quarter thanks to the outside shooting of forward Chet Caywood. He connected on three 3-pointers and knocked down 13 of his game-high 24 points to keep the Knights within seven at 50-43.
But in the fourth quarter, senior point guard Blake Pittman stepped up and took control for the Tigers. Playing in some pain with a taped up shoulder, Pittman scored six key points and handled the ball well against a frantic Henryetta press to help the Tigers finish out the victory – a point which was very pleasing to Tigers’ coach Jim Glover.
“I felt like that tonight when we got the lead we did the best job we’ve done all year of finishing,” he said. ”We didn’t turn the ball over as much as we have in the past.”
Finishing with 17 points, Pittman felt he contributed more with his leadership.
“With the sore shoulder, I just came in wanting to distribute the ball to our other good shooters, Dustin (Leach) and Christian McIntosh,” Pittman said. “Henryetta’s probably the best ball club we’ll see the rest of the year and we knew if we could come in the second half and really suck it up, we’d get the win.”
Besides Leach, Pittman and McIntosh, Devon Fry had 12 points, eight in the fourth quarter, for the Tigers.
Junior forward Jaylie Roper scored 10 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter of this game to keep the Lady Tigers, No. 4 in Class 2A, perfect on the season at 10-0.
As in the boys game, the first half was less than spectacular with both teams struggling on offense and Oktaha leading by just four at halftime, 23-19.
“I’m telling you we looked so lost in that first half, we had them lost,” said Oktaha coach Chester Pittman. “It looked like a game right after the holiday break. It wasn’t pretty.”
The Lady Knights came out of the locker room strong and outscored Oktaha 10-2 in the first four minutes of the third quarter to take a 29-25 lead. But the Lady Tigers stormed back, thanks to a 4-of-6 performance from 3-point land. They closed out the quarter with 15 unanswered points to go back up 38-29.
That set the stage for Roper’s fourth-quarter charge and Henryetta, who hurt its own cause with a 6-of-15 free-throw night, was never able to get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Besides Roper, other Oktaha players in double figures included Lanessa Grayson with 12 points and Makayla Baldridge with 10. Makayla Blackbear led the Lady Knights (4-5) with 17.
Next for the Tigers and Lady Tigers, the defense of their Small School championships in next week’s Bedouin Shrine Tournament. The Tigers play Graham at 6 p.m. Monday at the Muskogee Civic Center while the Lady Tigers get Summit Christian at Muskogee High School at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.