By Eric Shannon
OKTAHA — Balance was the name of the game for Eufaula in Saturday night’s Class 3A Area IV District 2 championship against Oktaha.
Three players scoring 13 points each and a defensive team effort that held Oktaha scoreless for 12:02 combined for a 47-31 win.
The Tigers’ drought began with 2:30 left in the second and ended with 7:30 left in the fourth.
“When you go so long between scores it’s going to be tough to win many games,” said Oktaha coach Jim Glover. “They did a good job on us and gave us problems with their size tonight.”
Daxton Williams who with Devin Seirs and Gage Durrett shared the scoring leadership for Eufaula (18-5) overcame the 24-point effort by Oktaha’s Dustin Leach. Leach had all of his team’s 21 first-half points as they trailed by four going into the break.
“The kids played hard tonight especially defensively and I think we really wore them down,” said Eufaula coach Brad Campbell. “I think we got them fatigued in the second half and frustrated Leach by staying in his face.”
Hunter Golt collected nine rebounds on the night for the Ironheads
“We have a very unselfish, balanced team,” said Campbell. “We thrive on team play.”
Both teams return here Thursday. Oktaha (9-15) gets Stigler in a regional elimination game at 3 p.m. while Eufaula draws Vian, which beat Stigler 57-49 on Friday, at 8 p.m. Thursday in a semifinal.
Oktaha 53, Eufaula 40
Oktaha used a 10-3 run to open the third quarter to rally from 22-20 halftime deficit for a Class 3A Area IV District 2 championship.
In her third game back since the Christmas break, senior Jaylie Roper led the Lady Tigers with 17 points and seven rebounds. She also connected on five of six at the free-throw line in the final period. As a team, Oktaha hit 10-of-14 free throws in the final eight minutes.
“We talked about hitting free throws at halftime, that those would come into play in a game like this,” said Oktaha coach Chester Pitman, who won his 20th game for the 24th consecutive season. “The girls did a good job stepping up there at the line and having Jaylie back is a huge leadership boost to our team. She still isn’t 100 percent but it was good to have her.”
Pressure was the name of the game for the Lady Tigers. They kept a defender on Eufaula’s ace Erin Gray from the outset, holding her to 10 points on just 11 touches during the game.
Eufaula (10-12) matched Oktaha (20-5) point-for-point through one quarter and Ashley Laughlin’s 3-pointer from the top of the key and a pair of jump shots from Jessie Gott led a late charge for the two-point halftime lead.
“I think we got caught up in the moment of the playoff and weren’t taking good looks at the basket,” said Pittman. “We took bad shots and got complacent in the second quarter.”
Kelsey Cantwell’s 3 ignited a 10-3 run that gave Oktaha a 30-26 lead with 1:17 left in the third, then hit another shot to start a 6-0 run to make it a 39-26 lead with 6:05 to play.
“We talked about running the offense at halftime and calmed down, ran a few sets and knocked down some of those shots we missed earlier,” said Pittman.
The Lady Tigers move on to a 6:30 p.m. Thursday semifinal against No. 9 Vian, which they are 0-2 by a margin of 32 points per game against this year including a 54-32 loss last week at Vian. The game will be at Oktaha, where Eufaula gets Stigler, a 57-34 loser on Friday to Vian, at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.