By Ben Johnson
TAHLEQUAH — In two games at the TMAC this season, Tahlequah beat Coweta by a combined 39 points. Both were extremely costly, though.
Tahlequah's Desiree Phipps went down with a season-ending knee injury in Tahlequah's 17-point victory on Dec. 15. On Thursday night in Tahlequah's 57-35 blowout of Coweta in Class 5A regional tournament play, junior guard Randee O'Donnell went down with what appeared to be a ankle injury.
"It was kind of like when Desiree went down," Tahlequah point guard Marisa Girdner said. "It was just like, 'ah crap!'"
O'Donnell crumbled to the floor after going for an inbounds pass by Coweta with 48 seconds left in the second quarter. She slapped the floor in pain and had to be carried to the locker room at halftime.
"We took our time getting it taped up and put in ice," Tahlequah coach Chad Walker said. "...She sprained it. It was a pretty good sprain, right above the ankle bone. We'll see what happens."
With the victory, 5A No. 7 Tahlqeuah advances to the regional finals at home for the second straight season. At 1:30 Saturday afternoon, the Lady Tigers will take on Chickasha, which beat Guthrie, 57-51, in overtime.
As for O'Donnell's availability for Saturday's contest, Girdner said, "I think she'll be back before people think. I know Randee and she's a tough kid."
Walker, with a more definitive answer, said, "She won't be back Saturday. It was swollen pretty good."
Picking up the slack once O'Donnell went down was Girdner, who led Tahlequah (15-9) with 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the field. Whitney Wright added 12 points — 10 in the first half — for the home team, and Casey Beaston chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds.
"We didn't want to take (Coweta) lightly," said Walker, who also got nine points from O'Donnell before she was injured. "We ran our man defense on them all night, and the girls played great defense, I thought."
Having swept Coweta during regular-season play in the Metro Lakes Conference, Tahlequah eliminated any hopes Coweta had for an upset in the first quarter. Tahlequah used a 16-0 run — which spilled into the second quarter — to turn a 2-2 tie into an 18-2 runaway.
"Everyone was talking about how their is a superstition where you can't beat a team three times in a season, and everybody was nervous about that," Girdner said. "I kind of felt like, we beat this team by 20 both times, and — I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park — but I knew if we did what we were supposed to do, it would be easy."
Coweta, which was 11 of 45 from the field in the game, started the game 1 of 6 from the floor. Kaycee Kelley made Coweta's lone field goal in the first quarter, and the regional's No. 4 seed didn't score again until Kaitlyn Norton knocked down two free throws inside six minutes to play in the second period.
Tahlequah wasn't overly sharp while shooting the basketball, but it did manage to knock down 21 of 54 field-goal attempts.
"We're shooting the ball well," Walker said. "...Right now, everything is working."
Haley Brewster paced Coweta with 12 points, and Norton tallied 11 points as Coweta's season ended at 6-17.
As for his assessment of Chickasha on Saturday, Walker noticed one thing about the Lady Chicks: their height.
"They're big, they're really big," he said. "But we're not going to change what we do. We're going to try and push the ball and get easy baskets."