By Nick Hampton
TAHLEQUAH – Like a locomotive pulling out of the station, the Muskogee Lady Roughers were a little slow out of the gate but by the end of the game they were going full speed down the track.
The Lady Roughers, No. 9 in the Okrankings.com Class 6A poll, faces Tahlequah at 7 tonight in the championship game of the United Keetoowah Band Tahlequah Tiger Invitational because of their 62-34 win over Rogers, Ark., Heritage.
“My girls were hyped and it took a while to calm down and hit their stride,” Muskogee head coach Doyle Rowland said.
Rogers (5-3) moved out to 7-2 lead midway through the first quarter as the Lady Roughers were cold from the outside and missed several easy chances inside. The War Eagles held a 13-9 advantage after the first quarter.
But Muskogee (2-1) started picking it up in the second quarter with a combination of better shooting and tenacious defense which allowed Rogers only six points in the quarter. Senior Kelsey McClure’s 3-pointer with 2:45 left to play in the half put the Lady Roughers ahead to stay at 21-18. They went on to outscore Rogers 8-1 the rest of the quarter to lead at the half, 29-19.
As potent as it was on offense, Muskogee really blew things open with its defense in the third quarter as it forced eight Rogers’ turnovers, converting most of those into points as it outscored the War Eagles 18-9 to put the game away.
“Our intensity on defense fueled our offense in the second and third quarters,” Rowland said. “I was also glad to see the way our point guards ran the offense tonight.”
McClure led the way for Muskogee with 20 points and said self-confidence played a big part in the win.
“A lot of people had their doubts about this game because they are a good team,” she said. “But we just came out and believed in ourselves.”
The other half of Muskogee’s one-two offensive punch, Alexus Wilson, had 17 points in the game and sophomore Lanice Rozell came off the bench to contribute eight points.
In the other semifinal game, Casey Beaston paced the host Lady Tigers with 17 points as Tahlequah defeated Moore 55-32 to remain undefeated at 3-0. Moore took an early 4-2 lead before Tahlequah went on a 17-0 run to put the game away early, leading 38-13 at halftime. Jhonett Cookson and Whitney Wright both had nine points for the Lady Tigers.
The rest of the girls’ bracket saw the Muskogee junior varsity fall to Sand Springs 55-41 and Yukon beat Oklahoma City Southeast 86-14. The Muskogee JV will play Southeast in the seventh-place game 10 a.m. today.
Enid 56, Muskogee 40
Muskogee (1-2) missed at least a dozen shots underneath and in the paint as they fell to Enid 56-40. The Roughers moved out to an early 8-2 lead but the Plainsmen outscored Muskogee 16-2 the rest of the quarter and never looked back.
“We had trouble finishing our possessions and had too many turnovers,” MHS coach Josh Berry said. “We’ve got some guys who are going to have to learn to play hard for four quarters.”
Anthony King was the leading scorer for the Roughers with 11 points and Tramal Ivy had 10. The Roughers will play Sand Springs in the seventh-place game at 11:30 a.m. today.
Other scores on the boys’ side saw Coweta bomb SOYLA, which stands for Save Our Youth Leadership Academy,73-48 and Sapulpa defeated Sand Springs 61-51.
The boys other semifinal game saw the host Tigers fall short against Class 6A No. 15 Moore 67-52. The Tigers had to play a large part of the first half without senior LainWright, who got in early foul trouble.
That enabled Moore to outscore Tahlequah 18-4 while Wright was out and take a 23-12 lead. But the Tigers fought back to within seven, 36-29 at half time. Moore had a hot third quarter, outpacing Tahlequah 24-12 to lead 60-41 at the end of three.
Jake Vader was the leading scorer for Tahlequah (2-1) with 18 points while Dorion Grigger had 22 for the winning Lions. Tahlequah will play SOYLA in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. today while Coweta faces Moore at 8:30 p.m. for the championship.