By Nick Hampton
Muskogee had plenty of offense. But it was some defensive changes that made the difference as Lady Roughers, ranked eighth in Class 6A by Okrankings.com, defeated unranked 18th-ranked Union 69-46 in Frontier Conference action for their fifth consecutive win Thursday night at Ron Milam Gymnasium.
Muskogee was a little slow out of the gate and Union made the most of the size of 6-foot center Imani Davis, who scored nine first-quarter points. But despite five turnovers, the Lady Roughers managed a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Muskogee made up for the slow offensive start in the second quarter going 9 for 14 from the field (64 percent). But just as important was the defensive adjustment they made, going from a man-to-man to a zone defense.
“We knew going in they were bigger and more physical inside than us so we went to the zone to give us an extra person inside,” said Muskogee coach Doyle Rowland. “That also kept her (Davis) from driving on us so much when she did get the ball.”
As a result, Davis had only four field goals the rest of the game and the Lady Roughers limited Union to just four points over the first five minutes of the second quarter to stretch the lead to 29-16. Muskogee took a 36-24 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Lady Roughers put all doubt aside in the third quarter as they utilized their quickness in yet another defensive maneuver.
“I told the girls at halftime we’re going to go to our strength, which is our speed, and put on a half-court trap,” said Rowland.
As a result, the Lady Redskins turned the ball over four straight times against the trap and Muskogee went on a 10-0 run to put the game away by the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter deteriorated into a fouling contest as a total 46 fouls were whistled in the game and reserves played most of the last four minutes for both teams.
“I was proud of the girls tonight after only one day off against this big strong Union team,” said Rowland. “I love our will to win. Our defense is starting to come around and little by little we’re doing a better job rebounding.”
Kelsey McClure led all scorers with 30 points including 13 of 14 from the charity line. Alexus Wilson had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Lady Roughers who improved to 10-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play. Davis was the whole offense for Union (6-7, 4-2) as she had 25 points.
Union 51, MHS 46
After trailing by 14 points late in the third quarter, the Roughers put on a furious fourth quarter rally, but came up just short.
Union, ranked No 13 in Class 6A, had a big size advantage inside against the Roughers with three players 6-4 or better. And for most of the game, the Roughers couldn’t buy a basket as they were just 9 of 40 (23 percent) through the first three quarters while Union went 12 of 30 (40 percent) over that same stretch.
Union kept the Roughers (6-6, 3-3) at bay through most of the fourth quarter, leading 47-34 with just over two minutes to play. But Muskogee scored seven unanswered points to make it 47-41 with a minute to play. The Redskins played keep-away, forcing the Roughers to foul them and they sank three free throws down the stretch to lead 50-41 with 27 seconds to play.
Muskogee got the last five points but the clock finally ran out on them.
“The kids played their hearts out tonight,” said a disappointed head coach Josh Berry. “But we just didn’t make enough plays defensively or get key rebounds when we needed them. We had a stretch in the second half where we lost our focus for about five minutes and that hurt us.”
The Rougher offense was paced by junior David Beasley who had several nifty drives in the fourth quarter to keep the Roughers in the hunt. He finished with 18 points. Anthony King was right behind with 17 points including five 3-pointers.
The big men for Union (8-4, 4-1)), Jeff Mead and Carson Mier had 14 and 12 points respectively while point guard Josh Davis contributed 10 points.
Next up for the Rougher teams will be a road trip to Sapulpa on Tuesday.