By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
WAGONER – Expect coach Jeremy Rogers to savor this win.
Rogers’ Hilldale Hornets outscored the Wagoner Bulldogs 18-6 in the second period and got a solid outside shooting night from Bill Muse, Jr. in third quarter to take the 62-50 victory in Verdigris Valley Conference action at Wagoner’s Hughes Event Center on Friday night.
The win snaps Hilldale’s losing streak at three games to win its first conference game in six outings. The Hornets improved to 5-10 overall.
“We had a long talk and I questioned some of the kids’ want-to and their competitive drive (after losing 63-27 to Fort Gibson Thursday),” Rogers said. “We got out-hustled in that game. I told them we needed a turning point. But we shot the ball well and played good defense. I thought we played really well all-around tonight.”
Hilldale took a 28-21 lead at halftime.
Muse then scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter as the Hornets pulled away. He sank 4-of-7 shots from beyond the arc in the third quarter.
“My teammates set good screens for me,” he said. “I give them credit for running a lot of the stuff that coach wanted us to run.”
Hunter Harrison added 10 points on 7-of-8 free throw shooting.
Wagoner coach Jason Giddens said Muse was the difference in the game as the Bulldogs dropped to 5-10 and 2-7.
“He can really shoot the basketball,” Giddens said. “We left him open several times in a row and we know better than that. We just couldn’t find him.”
Byron Adams and Decarius Clark led Wagoner with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Bulldogs’ 6-foot-6 junior Ya’Aquoob “Jacob” King had 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
The Bulldogs also played the game without Kerwin Thomas and Lateze Clayton. Thomas was on his official recruiting trip to Wyoming and Clayton was at home with the flu.
Hilldale and Wagoner will now play in Fort Gibson’s Old Fort Classic.
In the boys division, the Hornets play Muldrow at 5:50 p.m. and the Bulldogs face Inola at 8:45. In the girls bracket, Hilldale meets Stilwell at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday and Wagoner plays Fort Gibson at 7:20 p.m. Monday.
Hilldale 41, Wagoner 37
Leah Gragg said she wasn’t nervous.
She calmly sank three free throws in the last 16.8 seconds of the game to help the Hilldale Lady Hornets survive a scare from the Wagoner Lady Bulldogs and take the victory.
Gragg sank two foul shots with 16.8 seconds and another with 7.7 seconds remaining. It was all of her points in the game.
“Those were big as they helped us keep a lead,” she said. “We work on them every day in practice and I would’ve been surprised if I had missed them.”
Hilldale still had lingering effects from Thursday’s battle at home against rival Fort Gibson. The Lady Hornets lost that game, 56-47. Coach Scott Hensley was happy to see his team, now 10-5 overall and 4-3 in conference, pull out the win.
“It’s a confidence-builder to know it’s a tight game and we’ve got a lot of pressure on us,” he said.
Hillary Calvert led the Lady Hornets with 17 points and Katie Kirkhart added 13.
Wagoner (1-14, 0-9) can take a little confidence from this game as it got as close as 38-37 on Cherokee Ridge’s putback with 2:07 left. She finished with a game-high 14 rebounds.
“Hilldale’s very tough and athletic,” coach Mike Blair said. “But I thought we could sneak one out on them.”
Kelsi Emmons led the Lady Bulldogs with 10 points. Gabby Roberts had nine, while Kristen Robbins and Ridge had seven each.