, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

January 13, 2013

Struggles with free throws lead to Oktaha’s failed title defense

Maybe it’s because Oktaha hasn’t really been in this situation. In winning 42 of its last 43, the Lady Tigers haven’t had to pull out a game at the line.

They had 14 missed opportunities in this one, a 62-60 overtime loss to Spiro in the Small School Girls finals of the 33rd Bedouin Shrine Classic at Muskogee Civic Center. But none were more crucial than a missed two-shot situation by Lanessa Grayson, who was inexplicably fouled by the Lady Bulldogs’ Philicea Mack on an inbounds pass with :06 remaining in the contest with the game tied at 58.

Grayson redeemed herself somewhat by hitting both opportunities in overtime, but Jaylie Roper missed a pair. And, in an overtime where Spiro outscored them 4-2, those became problematic as well.

“This is one of the best shooting teams I’ve had and we go 23-of-37 from the line. It’s very uncharacteristic of us,” Oktaha coach Chester Pittman said. “They were physical and we expended a lot of energy. They’re tough athletically and maybe we were a little tired. Other than that, I can’t explain it.”

Spiro coach Kayla Carrington, whose unranked 3A team moved to 8-6 after their third win in the tourney, offered one.

“We stress pressure defense,” she said. “And we were pretty physical.”

That defense also forced 18 Oktaha turnovers. Even in the first quarter, which the Lady Tigers led 16-12, they had five. Spiro took control in the third by outscoring them 18-10 to take a 44-38 advantage and forced eight turnovers, all in Oktaha’s front court.

Now it’s 42 of 44 wins and the first loss in 14 this season for the No. 4 team in 2A, which saw its bid for a third consecutive tournament title vanish.

Pittman was asked if he could recall a game similar to this among the close ones over that span.

“We’ve pulled out games by shooting 3s but no, not this way, none I can remember,” he said. “And like I said, it’s not like these girls.”

Oktaha had the ball for one last shot with 9.3 left in overtime. Mack grabbed some redemption for her mistake late in regulation by stripping Shelby Gamble of the ball on the left wing with :02 left.

Mack also served her team well with 20 points, earning all-tournament honors.

Roper, also named to the all-tourney team, finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Grayson was next with 13.

Also on the all-tournament team was Sequoyah’s Courtney Jones, Lindsey Krueger of Hulbert and Denora Wheeland of Haskell.

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