By Nick Hampton
EUFAULA – Eufaula built up a big lead and then weathered a late Haymaker by Haskell for a 71-54 victory and a sweep of the series for this year as the Lady Ironheads, ranked No. 10 in Class 3A by Okrankings.com, got ready to start a playoff run.
Using the inside size advantage of 6-foot senior Janet Hill, Eufaula poured in 26 points in the first quarter while forcing the Lady Haymakers into seven turnovers. Hill, who had 19 of her game- high 27 points in the first half, powered the Lady Ironheads to a 45-23 lead at intermission.
Haskell coach Rick Kirkhart knew there needed to be some changes for this team.
“I told the girls at halftime that what we want to accomplish is just to chip away, play good defense and be patient on offense,” said Kirkhart. “We felt like we could press them because we were a little quicker than them. But that also got us into foul trouble and when we lost Denora Wheeland to fouls, that hurt us.”
Kirkhart’s philosophy paid off as the Lady Haymakers outscored Eufaula in the second half and got the margin down to 11 points, 65-54 with 2:30 to play. But the hole was too deep and time ran out on his squad.
It was an up-and-down game for Eufaula coach Jordan Garner in terms of his team’s performance.
“I thought we played as good a first half as we’ve played all season, but then we just kind of went into survival mode in the second half and just got through it,” said Garner.
“I told the girls to keep their composure and that was kind of our word in the huddle. We knew they would make a run and they did, and I was proud of the girls for closing them out in the end.”
Hill, the senior center, agreed that the Lady Ironheads (16-6) are ready for the playoffs.
“Haskell is a good team and we played well and I feel like I did have a pretty good game,” said Hill. “We feel like we’ve stepped up and we’ve won like seven games in a row so we think we’re in the flow now.”
Connors-bound Sherrell McHenry recorded her 10th double-double of the season as she paced Haskell (10-13) with 24 points and 10 rebounds on the night. The only other Lady Haymaker in double figures was Wheeland who had 10.
For the Lady Ironheads, Cheyanna Jones with 15 points and Newakis Banks and Alyssa Banks with 10 each joined Hill in double figures.
Eufaula will host 3A districts on Saturday as the boys and girls take on Stigler while Haskell’s teams will be on the road Saturday at Sequoyah, also in 3A action.
Eufaula 74, Haskell 58
Alex Wheeland tossed in 19 first-half points including six from beyond the arc to keep the Haymakers going, leading 35-34 at halftime. But the Ironheads (12-10) made some corrections and, like the girls completed a series sweep of the Haymakers.
“In the first half we were slow defensively and they outrebounded us,” said Ironheads coach Brad Campbell. “So we went more man-to-man defensively in the second half and that really was the difference.”
The strategy slowed Wheeland down as he got 10 points to give him 29 for the game, but only two field goals in the second half.
Davone Garfield was the leading scorer for Eufaula with 21 points. He was joined in double figures by Devin Siers with 19 points, Cody Faries with 15, all in the second half, and Forest Paden with 10 points.
Haymakers coach Jay Dixon was pleased with at least part of the game.
“We had a good first half and led at halftime but things kind of fell apart in the third quarter and we had to play without our big man (6-6 Michael Love) tonight so that hurt us.”
With playoff action looming, Campbell feels his team his ready to go.
“We had a tough loss to Checotah last week but we learned from that game and tonight, especially the second half, I think we’re playing about as well as we can right now,” said Campbell.