By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
FORT GIBSON – When you’re No. 1, minutes are golden and hard-earned.
Grace Parker knows this, and she’s given some golden effort on defense to find her way into the mix for defending Class 4A champion Fort Gibson.
Parker was a constant amongst a mix of four Lady Tigers that spent the night harassing whoever dribbled for the Sallisaw Lady Diamonds, helping her team cruise to a 75-41 win at Harrison Field House on Saturday.
Parker had three steals and caused numerous others as she’s caught on as a key component in the Lady Tigers’ starting lineup.
“Our pressure on the ball is pretty tough, that’s no secret, but it starts with Grace Parker,” FGHS coach Jerry Walker said.
“You could not ask her to play any harder. She came off the bench for us the first semester and became a catalyst defensively – and how could we keep her off the floor after that. She makes things happen.
“All the time she was sitting she never pouted, played hard every chance she got, and to me that serves as a good role model for everyone on the bench. It tells them to play your tail off when you get the chance.”
Parker had three steals and 11 points. Allie Glover matched her point total and contributed five thefts. Savannah Gray had three steals and 10 points.
Helping out those three starters was Aaliyah Dailey-Lee. The sophomore showed she’s paying attention to what Walker was talking about with three steals and 8 points.
“We just have a lot of teamwork,” Parker said. “We work and talk and know who’s going to be up there and everyone does their jobs.”
In all, Sallisaw turned the ball over 27 times. Fourteen occurred in the opening half, which saw the Lady Tigers take a 37-17 lead to the locker room.
A 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the second half pushed the lead to 30. Desiree Phipps, who finished with a game-high 24 points to give Fort Gibson four double-figure scorers on the night, had her final 13 in the third quarter. Included in that was a 3-pointer with 5:10 to go to make it 47-17. She watched from the bench in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t until the lead reached 30 that Bailey Morgan got going for Sallisaw (10-8), which lost at home to the Lady Tigers 60-41 on Monday. She had 10 of her team-high 11 points in the final five minutes of the third quarter.
The win was Fort Gibson’s 21st consecutive dating back to the 4A area consolation finals last March, moving them to 17-0 on the year.
Fort Gibson 80, Sallisaw 40
Any hope Sallisaw had in this contest evaporated from a three-possession series early in the second quarter.
Two steals by Chris Simpson ended on baskets by Rayne Cox, the last a three-point play after being fouled on a running layup off a break off Simpson’s pass after the heist. Coleman Crawley did it all himself on the third, taking the third midcourt steal in for a layup.
That made it 34-17 and it was off to the races for the Tigers (14-2), who made it a season sweep of the Black Diamonds (4-14) after winning by 23 at Sallisaw on Monday. The Diamonds coughed up the ball 10 times in the second quarter and on the way to 21 for the game, found itself down 27 at the half, 51-24.
“Chris is playing real well. He has got some real quick hands and he makes it tough on ball handlers,” said FGHS coach Gary Hendrix. “Coleman is just smart and anticipates well and Rayne’s athletic. He turned his ankle and it slowed him the second half but he makes things happen because he works so hard.”
Cox wasn’t the only Tiger who went home sore. Jordon London hit the back of his head hard on the floor on a third-quarter foul. He sank both free throws and played a few minutes more, but those charity shots put a lid on his 22-point performance. He sat the whole fourth quarter which likely kept him from eclipsing his season high of 26 against Hilldale.
“I thought everyone did their role right. We put it on them pretty good in the first half,” said London after downing an aspirin with a shot of fountain water.
Dalton Cunningham had 12 points for the Tigers, whose lead would peak at 44 on two occasions as the end of the bench put the wraps on the night.
Tanner Dobbs had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Sallisaw in both categories.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers go to Jay on Tuesday.