By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Muskogee coach Doyle Rowland said the 33rd Bedouin Shrine Classic is all about accountability.
That, indeed, took on a team concept Monday night in a 72-32 win over Checotah at the Muskogee Civic Center, beginning their search for a fourth straight Shrine Large School Girls division championship.
Every member of Rowland’s roster – and for that, matter, Checotah’s – saw action in a game that was well in hand at the half. The coach was seven deep into his bench before going up 30, 44-14, late in the first half, on a 3-pointer by one of those reserves, J’Liyah Tillman.
“We needed, or I needed, a game to get deeper into our bench. We’ve been going seven or eight deep and we’ve got 15 girls who can play,” Rowland said. “We’ve told our girls this tournament is about accountability to each other, accountability for positives and negatives, every single player.”
They quickly took care of business using traps and frontcourt pressure on Checotah’s guards to force eight first-quarter turnovers, 13 before half, 22 in all.
Alexus Wilson led a spread-out MHS offense with 11 first-half points. She finished with 15. Her younger sister, Aaliyah Wilson, had 11 points off the bench. Kelsey McClure finished with 13, seven in the third quarter.
By game’s end, and for most of the fourth quarter, both teams were playing the end of their benches.
Muskogee (6-2) will play tonight’s Hilldale-Webster winner on Friday at Ron Milam Gymansium.
“We needed to get our confidence back up,” said Rowland, whose team was coming off an 83-68 loss to Jenks on Friday. “This wasn’t a 6A team we played but we knew they’d come out and fight.”
Katie Smith’s eight points led Checotah (1-8), which faces the Hilldale-Webster loser on Thursday, also at the MHS gym. Both games will be 7:30 starts.
“I told our girls what they would do,” said first-year Lady Wildcats coach Vaughn Blankenship. “They’re very athletic and fast and we didn’t score we’d have to get back and defend. We didn’t do it. But we’re young.”
HULBERT 52, HASKELL 47 – The Lady Riders (9-2) controlled the first half before a Lady Haymaker really tightened it up, with five lead changes in the third quarter.
Victoria Lewis’ 3-pointer was the final lead change at 36-35 before Hulbert’s Tiffany Thompson hit a pair of free throws to start an 8-1 run. But it was the constant inside presence of 6-foot-2 Lindsey Krueger. She finished with a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Haskell (4-5) had a chance at new life when Tashay Love, after blocking a shot by Krueger, was fouled at the other end on a 3-point attempt down 48-44. She missed all but one and Hulbert finished it out on its own charity stripe.
“That finished us and it wasn’t something you expect from an 84, 85-percent free-throw shooter,” Haskell coach Rick Kirkhart said. “But (Krueger) was the difference in the game. We tried to front her, double team her, and she continued to score. Other than that I thought we matched up well and should’ve won the game.”
When not feeding Krueger, Thompson and Arnall, Hulbert’s guards, had 11 points each. They will meet the winner of today’s Oktaha-Summit Christian game on Friday at the Civic Center.
Lady Riders coach Rick Ott was anticipating a matchup with Oktaha, unbeaten and ranked No. 4 in 2A.
“We really haven’t gotten any respect in the rankings,” Ott said. “Playing them will give us a chance to see how we measure up.”
Haskell will play the loser on Thursday, also at the Civic Center. Both games are at 4:30 p.m.
MCALESTER 60, TULSA HALE 36 – Kaleisha Johson poured in 27 points as McAlester knocked off Tulsa Hale 60-36 at Muskogee High School’s Ron Milam Gymnasium.
Meredith Sauner added 14 as the Lady Buffs play the Enid-Coweta winner at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the winner’s bracket at the Muskogee Civic Center. Hale faces the Enid-Coweta winner at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Civic Center.
Hannah Southward led Hale with 12 points.
SPIRO 54, PORTER 17 – The Lady Pirates only had six players in uniform in falling 54-17 to the Lady Bulldogs.
Cierra Richardson led coach Bill Nobles’ squad with eight points. Porter’s best quarter was the 12 in the second period.
Philicea Mack topped Spiro with 15 points. Katie Gentry had 11 and Kanisha Hutchinson added 10.
Porter advances to the consolation semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Muskogee High School against the loser of tonight’s game between Graham and Sequoyah.
Spiro faces the Graham-Sequoyah winner at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Muskogee High School.
– Kenton Brooks, Phoenix sports writer contributed to this report