By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
FORT GIBSON – Jordan London played like a man possessed in the Class 4A Area IV regional championship game Saturday at Harrison Field House.
The junior finished with a game-high 23 points, tied for team honors with six rebounds and stole the ball seven times to lead the No. 6 Tigers to a 56-42 win over Broken Bow.
“Jordan has got a knack for understanding the game of basketball,” said Fort Gibson coach Gary Hendrix. “Things that I don’t coach or anybody coaches, he makes plays that kids with just some natural instinct make.”
Of his seven steals, none was bigger that the one at the start of the fourth quarter with the Tigers leading 37-32. London intercepted Broken Bow’s inbounds pass, made a layup and converted a free throw to give Fort Gibson (23-3) a 40-32 advantage.
“I was just trying to force a turnover,” London said. “I knew we needed a big bucket to get our energy going.”
The game was played at a slow pace, mainly on the part of the Savages (17-8) playing keep away. However, when the Tigers were able to gain possession, they made Broken Bow pay by grabbing a 13-10 advantage after the first eight minutes.
The slow pace continued in the second quarter as the Savages looked to be headed into the locker room with a 22-20 lead. But London would have nothing to do with that as he made a driving layup and was fouled, making the free throw to give the Tigers the lead at 23-22.
“This win was super important because now we have to win one game instead of three,” London said. “Now if we lose on Friday, we still have another chance.”
When London was not creating havoc, his teammates were picking up the slack. Coleman Crawley finished with 14 points while Dalton Cunningham and Stephen Edwards were pulling down six and five rebounds, respectively.
“We just wanted to come out with energy,” Crawley said. “I think we did a good job of doing that. They tried to hold the ball against us and we did a good job of being patient on offense and not getting out of our game.”
Hendrix was equally as pleased with his team’s overall performance.
“At this point everybody’s good,” Hendrix said. “They did a good job of slowing the tempo down and making us play a different style. I’m very proud of our guys responding. Stephen Edwards, who’s been sick, made some big plays and came up with some big baskets for us. All the kids played extremely hard.”
The Tigers will now face top-ranked Victory Christian in the area championship at 8 p.m. Friday in Wilburton with the winner advancing to the state tournament.
“We’ll have our hands full,” Hendrix said. “But, we’re going to celebrate this then get ready. We’ve got one out of two shots to get to play to go to state and that’s all you can ask for.”
FGHS 75, Poteau 35
In recent games, the No. 1 Lady Tigers have struggled in the first half only to clamp down and take the game away in the second half.
Saturday in the Class 4A regional championship game at Harrison Field House, Fort Gibson decided to use its pressure defense to force the issue, racing out to a 17-6 lead after the first quarter and never looking back.
“We came out and executed well,” said Fort Gibson coach Jerry Walker. “On defense, we were locked in on the girls we felt were their best players offensively and doing a good job of knowing where they were at.”
The Lady Tigers (26-0) limited the Lady Pirates (14-10) to 25 percent shooting (4 of 25) while forcing 11 turnovers in the first half. They also controlled the boards, outrebounding Poteau 32-24 for the game.
Offensively, Susie Kilpatrick made her presence felt down low with her drop step as she scored a game-high 18 points. She finished the night hitting on seven of eight shots and converted all four of her free-throw attempts and credited being prepared for her success on Saturday.
“We practiced this week,” she said. “We had to come out in the beginning ready to go. We definitely wanted to go out there and be ready.”
Starting the third period with a 30-12 advantage, the Lady Tigers did not let up, outscoring the Lady Pirates 26-10 for a 56-22 lead heading into the final eight minutes. Fort Gibson also had a strong night on the free-throw line, making 15 of 16 attempts with senior Savannah Gray, playing her final game in Fort Gibson, recording the only miss while scoring 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, all from 3-point range.
“We just want to focus on one game at a time,” Gray said. “Defense wins champions and we needed to pick up our defense. Anything we did wrong in this game we have to correct for our next game.”
That next game will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Wilburton versus Ada. Should the Lady Tigers prevail, they would be making their 10th straight trip to the state tournament.