By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Sometimes, it’s just not your night.
The Fort Gibson Lady Tigers found out on Friday.
Leading by four points at the end of the third quarter, the Lady Tigers would not score another point as the Byng Lady Pirates handed Fort Gibson its first loss of the season, 57-46, in the Class 4A Area IV championship game at the Muskogee Civic Center.
The Lady Pirates draw the first spot in the state tournament from this bracket — a spot Fort Gibson has gotten quite used to after having won in this position eight consecutive seasons.
“We had it handed to us tonight,” said Fort Gibson coach Jerry Walker. “We knew they were very athletic and long and that bothered us on the entry passes. They’re a good ballclub.”
Byng, 26-3 and No. 6 in the Okrankings.com Class 4A final poll, actually began their rally with at the 3:58 mark of the third quarter, cutting a 33-26 deficit to the 37-33 entering the final eight minutes.
The Lady Pirates began the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run to take a 45-37 lead over the No. 2 team in Class 4A. Fort Gibson (25-1) was held scoreless in the quarter until Brooke Palmer, who finished with 11 points, sank a layup with 1:36 left in the game.
“We couldn’t make a shot,” said Allie Glover, who led the Lady Tigers with 14 points. “Our shots weren’t falling and we just didn’t do anything to fix it.”
The Lady Tigers were 9 for 30 (30 percent) in the second half including 2 for 13 from 3-point range. For the game, Fort Gibson was 17 for 58 (29.3 precent) and 8-of-31 from beyond the arc.
“They hit most of their shots and we couldn’t get anything going,” Savannah Gray said. “When they got the lead, they were stalling and we had to foul. That put them up even more.”
Fort Gibson has little time to dwell on the loss as it faces Muldrow, a 60-45 winner over Roland, at 6:30 p.m. today.
“We have to get this out of our memory and get ready for the next one,” Walker said. “The same ticket that was available tonight is available tomorrow. Somebody’s going to win, either us or Muldrow. We’re both playing to go to the state tournament.”
Fort Gibson 61,
The Tigers took advantage of an injury to Stilwell’s Matt Lea to avenge a 68-64 loss the Stilwell Indians last week in a regional first-round game to advance to the Class 4A Area IV consolation finals.
Lea suffered the injury to his ankle with 5:44 remaining in the second quarter and the Indians leading 27-23. The Tigers closed out the remainder of the quarter with an 11-4 run to take a 34-31 lead at intermission.
“That’s unfortunate for Matt, he’s a good kid,” said Fort Gibson coach Gary Hendrix. “We played well. We started moving the ball in the second half to take advantage of Lea’s injury. Plus we switched to a 3-2 zone and forced them to make shots.”
The Tigers, 24-4 and No. 6 in Class 4A, opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run to push their lead to 43-31 over the Indians (15-11) before Lea returned to the floor with 4:23 left. By the time the quarter ended, Fort Gibson had a 47-38 advantage.
“The key to the second half was their big guy getting hurt,” said Jordan London, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “They were also making everything in the first half and missing shots in the second. Also in the second half, we spread out our offense so we could drive and penetrate.”
The Tigers are now one win away from the state tournament and will play Muldrow at 8 p.m. tonight and London knows the importance of the next game.
“This feels so good,” he said. “I don’t even know what to say.”