By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
SAND SPRINGS – At this point in the season, Muskogee girls coach Doyle Rowland feels his team should be playing like it wants to make a deep run in the playoffs.
What he feels and what he saw on Tuesday at Sand Springs were two different things, even though the Lady Roughers beat the Lady Sandites 59-51.
“We’re not going to make it out the regional if we play like this,” Rowland said. “Tonight we played like we should be playing in December.”
The Lady Roughers, 13-3 and No. 6 in Class 6A, started the game like they were in midseason form with Jada Ford hitting 5 of 6 shots in leading Muskogee to a 17-9 advantage after the first quarter. At that point, the mistakes began to happen as Sand Springs (7-11) opened the second quarter with a 12-0 run, forcing seven Muskogee turnovers, to take a 21-17 lead with 3:37 left in the quarter.
The Lady Roughers regrouped and grabbed the lead back on a 3 by Ford and a layup by Aaliyah Wilson, making the score 22-21. The teams traded the lead on the next two possessions, with Muskogee taking the lead for good on a layup by Lanice Rozell to put the Lady Roughers up for good at 24-23. They led at the half, 30-26.
“I can’t say this was inexperience for the way we played,” Rowland said. “We are well past that point. We just have to start learning that we can’t play this way and expect to win.”
Ford, who scored 19 of her game-high 25 points in the first half, knew early in the second half that the Lady Sandites were going to slow her down.
“But It allowed our inside game to get going,” Ford said. “They knew what we came to do. They also knew we wanted to shoot.”
Muskogee opened the third quarter very similarly to the first, outscoring Sand Springs 13-4 to push its advantage to 43-30 with 4:10 left in the quarter. That’s when Rozell had to leave after getting popped in the nose and in her absence, the Lady Sandites forced six turnovers and trimmed Muskogee’s margin to 43-37. Rozell returned at the 1:24 mark, kept Sand Springs off the board and her team led 45-37 heading into the final eight minutes.
And as happened in the second quarter, the Lady Roughers could not handle prosperity as Sand Springs scored the first six points to trim the deficit to two, 45-43. Wilson stopped the run with a 3 to put the Lady Roughers up 48-43 and the Lady Sandites never got closer.
Besides Ford’s 25, Wilson finished with 16 and Rozell had 11. Sand Springs was led by Sydney Harrington with 22 points and Dru Clark with 13.
Sand Springs 63,
The Roughers learned the hard way that if you let an inferior opponent hang around long enough, you can get burned.
Muskogee (10-6) held the lead for most of the game but could never put Sand Springs away, and it came back to bite them, falling in overtime.
With 40.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Roughers leading 53-48, Ashton Palmer drained a 3-pointer then came back on the Sandites’ next possession with a driving layup to tie the game and send it into regulation.
“We just didn’t make stops down the stretch,” said Muskogee’s David Beasley, whose last-second shot clanged off the rim, thus preventing a second OT. “We had the lead and then got caught up in trying to outscore them.”
Quintahj Cherry opened the extra period by draining a 3 to give the Roughers a 56-53 advantage. But Palmer began to work his magic again and drove in for two of his game-high 25 points to keep it a one-point game.
It stayed a one point Muskogee advantage until Jacob Taber converted two free throws to put the Sandites up 61-60, their first lead of the game. After Beasley made the front end of a one-and-one to tie the game at 61-60 with 16.9 seconds left, Palmer struck again with a jumper in the lane with 6.1 seconds left for the game-winner.
“He’s a good shooter and I knew that coming in,” said Beasley, who played summer ball in Tulsa with Palmer.
Cherry lead the Roughers with 15 points while Tramal Ivy had 14 and Beasley finished with 13. Besides Palmer, Mack Thompson and Josh Lattie had 15 points each for Sand Springs.
Muskogee coach Josh Berry said there was another factor that led to the Roughers’ demise, and it wasn’t the Sandites’ scoring.
“We need to protect the ball better,” he said. “We made way too many turnovers and against any team, that is unacceptable.”
The games were moved up to an afternoon matinee due to travel concerns with the area’s winter weather. The girls tipped off at 3:30 p.m. and the boys at 5 p.m.