By Nick Hampton
FORT GIBSON – Gary Hendrix may decide that life on the road is better for his Fort Gibson Tigers.
For only the second time this season, the Tigers played in the friendly confines of Harrison Field House. But after winning a tough tournament at Oologah last weekend, the Tigers let their guard down early and the Wagoner Bulldogs made them pay with a 59-53 upset win over the Class 4A No. 10 team in the Okrankings coaches poll in a Verdigris Valley Conference game Tuesday night.
Fort Gibson (10-3) came out of the gate cold, going just 4 of 18 from the field in the first quarter, including only 1 of 10 from 3-point territory, while the Bulldogs were 7 of 15 in the quarter including a couple of 3-pointers by Kerwin Thomas which built a 17-9 lead.
From that point on the two teams played fairly even with Wagoner holding its widest lead of the game, 31-18, just before halftime and still led by eight at 41-33 after three quarters.
Hendrix, who was presented a basketball autographed by the team to honor his 500th career win over the weekend, just felt like the Tigers went through the motions over the first three quarters.
“Yeah, we waited a little late to really start getting after it,” said the Tigers’ coach. “We had some opportunities late in the game and actually got the lead at one point but credit Wagoner with coming back when they needed to.”
Fort Gibson did indeed turned up the intensity in the fourth quarter as senior Jordan Hill took charge, scoring 10 of his game-high 19 points in the quarter. The Tigers also ratcheted up the defensive pressure, at one-point forcing five straight Wagoner turnovers, to outscore the Bulldogs 17-6 in the first four minutes of the quarter to take a 50-47 lead.
Wagoner got the lead back with five straight points including a big 3-pointer by senior Decarius Clark to make it 52-50 with 2 1/2-minutes left. The Bulldogs increased the lead to three at 54-51 and, after a missed 3-point attempt and a turnover by the Tigers, Clark hit four of five free throws down the stretch to win it for Wagoner.
“I just bent my knees and tried to shut out the crowd,” said Clark. “Thankfully most of them went down.”
For Wagoner coach Jason Giddens, it was another step forward after a slow start to the season for the Bulldogs (5-9).
“We had a couple of key kids that were injured early and have just gotten back for the last four games and that’s really helped,” said Giddens. “Our kids showed a lot of composure and gathered themselves after Fort Gibson made a run at us and I’m real proud of them.”
Hill was the only Tiger in double figures on the night while Wagoner had Clark and Thomas with 17 points each, Lateze Clayton with 12 points and Byron Adams with 10.
FGHS 72, WHS 34
Sophomore guard Allie Glover was a one-person wrecking crew for the Lady Tigers as she was 4-for-4 from 3-point land in the first quarter to lead Fort Gibson to a 31-point outburst. Meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs committed seven turnovers in the quarter and scored just nine points.
For the half, Glover added another 3-pointer and Brittany Palmer tossed in 12 points as the Lady Tigers went 17 of 29 (59 percent) from the field and led 43-15 at the half.
The pace slowed in the second half as the Lady Tigers played reserves a good part of the time and coasted to the win. Coach Jerry Walker was pleased with the win and some of the other aspects the Lady Tigers have been working on.
“Today our goal was to block out better on the offensive boards,” said Walker. “So we put in a little running punishment if we didn’t block out players better, and I think we did a better job in that regard.”
Glover paced the No. 2 Lady Tigers (13-0) with 18 points while Palmer had 14 and freshman Emilee Rigsby contributed 11 points. Kristen Robbins was the lone Lady Bulldog in double figures with 11 points. Wagoner is now 1-13 on the season.