By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
A Ford was on fire Friday at the Muskogee CIvic Center.
Jada Ford’s 35 points, including six 3-pointers, sent Muskogee past Hilldale 68-41 for the second straight year in the Large School semifinals of the 34th Bedouin Shrine Classic basketball tournament.
Muskogee (7-1) now goes for their fifth consecutive championship at 7:30 tonight at the Civic Center in yet another rematch, this one against Enid, a 64-41 winner against McAlester in Friday’s other semifinal.
“We had to come out and play like we knew we had a fight and we did what we had to do,” Ford said.
And for a little over a quarter, it was a fight.
Kenzie Mize had three first-quarter field goals for Hilldale, two off fast breaks, and had the Lady Hornets (4-3) within 17-10 at the end of one quarter. She was scoreless on three shots in the second quarter, but rebounding and second-chance points were what hurt Hilldale the most. Muskogee’s 19-7 edge on rebounds to halftime helped fuel a 10-0 advantage in second- and third-chance points for a 32-18 halftime advantage.
Ford had 11 points in the third quarter and the lead ballooned to 56-32 entering the final eight minutes. MHS outrebounded Hilldale 36-16 for the game.
“Our inability to get rebounds and our inability to move the ball offensively was a killer for us. That made it really tough,” Hilldale coach Scott Hensley said.
And then there was Ford.
“She shot it really well, her and number 3 (Aaliyah Wilson, who was next with 16 points),” Hensley said. “We thought we’d triangle-and-two them before the game and we even got in it quite a bit but I don’t know... in transition they’d steal the ball, it’s hard to catch up to them and then she’d spot up and drop it.”
Muskogee coach Doyle Rowland said his team followed his plan.
“I gave them the three keys. First was rebounding and boxing out,” he said. “That was our nemesis in our only loss (against Broken Arrow). Second, I said intensity but intensity with discipline. We didn’t show that through about three-fourths of the second quarter but I think we were a little hyped, this being two Muskogee teams. But then we got it together there.
“Then it was about not letting up at the half. We were up 20 against Sapulpa and won by two. I told them at half this can’t happen again. And that’s what I like about this particular team. They’ll fight all night long, fight until they drop.”
Trena Mims added 13 points for Muskogee
Mize had 15 and Katie Kirkhart had 11 for Hilldale which was actually playing its first game in the tournament, having drawn a forfeit on Monday when Coweta was restricted from playing due to classes being ousted by the weather. The Lady Hornets will face McAlester for third at noon today at the Civic Center.
“You can’t gauge anything playing six (actual) games,” Hensley said. “I’m not thinking wins and losses, but just experience and it’s hard to be off as much as we have and jump in and say ‘let’s play Muskogee.’”
Enid (6-3) outscored McAlester (1-6) 25-9 on 10-of-14 shooting in the third. This rout was due in part to an 18-2 Pacers run that extended the lead to 20 in the quarter.
“It’s where we wanted to be. It was a big goal coming into this tournament to get to the finals,” said Enid coach Robb Mills. “It feels good to get this win.”
Abby Le led the Pacers in scoring with 13. Le had 9 of those in the third. Enid led McAlester 27-16.
McAlester’s Lacy McLain had 10. Also for Enid, Andi Pierce finished with 12, Grace Enmeier had 11, and Kyee Vestal topped it off with 10.
“It is going to be a tough game. Defensive rebounding is going to be huge. I feel we are going to need to talk about that. They’re a real athletic team,” said Mills about Muskogee. “We are a going to have to slide our feet, box out, knock down some shots. But defensive rebounds will be the key.”
—Patrick Kays, correspondent
Large School Girls
Seventh-place game, Tulsa Hale vs. Chectotah, Hilldale HS, noon
Consolation final, Coweta vs. Tulsa Webster, MHS, noon
Third-place game, Hilldale vs. McAlester, Muskogee CC, noon
Finals, Muskogee vs. Enid, CC, 7:30 p.m.