By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
Coach Jerry Walker isn’t picky about how the job was done, just that it was done.
A day later than usual, his Fort Gibson Lady Tigers punched their ninth consecutive state tournament trip with a 41-38 victory against the Muldrow Lady Bulldogs in the consolation final of the Class 4A Area IV tournament Saturday at the Muskogee Civic Center.
Of those nine tickets, this is the first time they’ve been pushed into a Saturday consolation matchup rather than win it in the area title game on Friday.
“A sigh of relief but anytime you go to the state tournament – and I don’t care what night it’s on – it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s exciting as it can be.”
Savannah Gray sank two free throws in the final 40.2 seconds to clinch the win.
“You just have to play every play your hardest, try your best and not give up,” Gray, who finished with five points, said. “This feels great. It doesn’t feel like we lost (by going the consolation route).”
The Lady Tigers fell 57-46 to Byng on Friday, but they had to shake their first loss of the season off.
On Saturday, Muldrow made it just as tough for Fort Gibson.
No more than two points separated the two for the last nine minutes of the game. The game was tied twice and the Lady Bulldogs held a 32-31 lead on Cassidy Hughes’ 3-pointer with 4:33 left in the contest. Hughes finished with a team-high 10 points, while Halee Sharp and Alex Butcher had eight each.
Brooke Palmer was the ultimate difference as the Lady Tigers senior sank all six of her free-throw attempts in the fourth period and 10-of-10 on the night to finish with a game-high 16 points.
Allie Glover sank two 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 10 points.
The Lady Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the final Okrankings.com poll, head to Oklahoma City with a 26-1 record. The state pairings will be announced Sunday.
“This is a big team win,” Fort Gibson assistant coach Chuck London said. “When you lose on Friday and come back on Saturday and win, I told them it takes two things. It takes character and toughness.
“And those two things defined our team all year long.”
Fort Gibson 65
Jordan Hill and Jordan London had their problems with Muldrow’s defense as the No. 6 Tigers ended their season at 24-5.
The Bulldogs’ defense held the Tigers scoreless for four minutes in the third quarter. Fort Gibson’s deficit grew from 42-38 to 48-38 during that stretch.
Hill was 1-for-4 and London was 1-for-3 in the period. For the night, Hill made 7-of-14 shots from the field and London was 5-of-17 to finish with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
“They played very physical and tough defense,” coach Gary Hendrix said. “They’re extremely athletic.”
Muldrow coach Randy Martin said his defensive strategy was to limit Hill and London.
“Those are two outstanding players,” he said. “You can never completely shut them down, but we were able to keep them from having the kind of games like they’ve had this season. We tried to stay on them really tight and make them work hard for everything.”
“They were just real quick with good hands,” Hill said. “They had a lot of pressure and it was something you can’t get used to. It was just hard to get around those guys.”
Zach Lindley and Ned Adair added 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Tigers.
The Bulldogs (20-8) were led by Colton Keith’s 23 points, 15 of that in the second half. Nate Hamilton had 21, 17 of that in the first half. Dominic Blue added 13.