By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
SAPULPA – No. 6 Muskogee atoned for its season-opening loss with a fast start in downing Sapulpa 57-47 in Class 6A and Frontier Conference action at the Chieftain Center on Tuesday night.
Sapulpa’s only lead came at 2-0 before Kelsey McClure, who scored a game-high 26 points, knocked down the first nine points of the contest for her team. She didn’t miss until 4:40 to go in the half, before which time she was 6-of-6, including a pair of 3-pointers.
J’liyah Tillman didn’t let the miss go to waste, draining a putback that made it a 25-11 game at that point. Mari Jackson’s 3 closed the first-half scoring and the Lady Roughers (11-2, 5-2 Frontier Conference) were on top, 31-19.
“I just try and get into my element but that’s a tough place to shoot. It’s a long floor and rims are tight and I really didn’t shoot well in warmups,” McClure said. “I got into the flow and started to feel it.”
McClure was 7-of-9 in the half with 17 points, equaling her total as the Lady Roughers’ only double-figure scorer in the last meeting, a 61-45 season-opening setback.
Jackson was also at her norm on the board, getting 13 to go with 11 points.
The lead reached 18 when Alexus Wilson, who finished with eight points, scored off a putback to make it a 42-24 game with 3:50 left in the third. Sapulpa made two late charges, getting within 10 at 48-38 with 4:35 left in the game before McClure fed Jackson on the break then went coast-to-coast herself for a 42-38 advantage with 3:15 to go.
Not done, the Chieftains closed again to within eight, but McClure’s free throws in the final minute helped douse that push.
“It’s hard to keep playing as well as we were the first half. That was a super half for us,” MHS coach Doyle Rowland said.
“We got a little complacent with our defense and offensively we seemed to be taking the attitude that it was one-and-done on a jump shot. (Sapulpa coach) Darlene Calip’s one of the best coaches in the state and she’ll have her team fight back and they did. We learned again that we need to keep our foot on someone’s throat when we have them down.”
Keysha Streater led the Lady Chieftains (6-8, 3-5 but with a win over Jenks, Muskogee’s other loss) with 21 points. April Glisson, who had 22 in the opener, was held to three points on 1-of-6 shooting, her only points coming in the third quarter.
Riding a six-game win streak, Muskogee goes to the John Nobles Tournament in Moore on Thursday where it will take on Moore at 2:30 p.m.
Sapulpa 62, Muskogee 48
The Roughers trailed most of the first half mired by ball-control issues, coughing up 14 turnovers. David Beasley’s half-court shot at the buzzer made it a one-point deficit at the break and seemed to give his team a surge of momentum.
Larry Marshall ran off nine unanswered points out of the chute for Sapulpa as part of a 13-3 third quarter. Marshall had a game-high 26 points as the Chieftains (4-9, 2-6) had their turn at avenging a season-opening loss.
“They played harder than us,” Muskogee coach Josh Berry said on the way to the locker room, his team falling to 6-7 and 3-4. “We weren’t talking to each other, we didn’t play with any energy and we looked like a bunch of individuals out there. We’ll get that fixed tomorrow in practice.”
Sapulpa’s lead grew to 15 at 50-35 early in the fourth quarter, a margin that would be cut almost in half when Beasley hit back-to-back buckets to get the Roughers within eight, 52-44, with 3:06 left. The Chieftains took a time out and squelched the rally with back-to-back baskets, including another by Marshall, who turned a steal into a three-point play to all but seal it.
Tramal Ivy had 15 points and 11 rebounds for MHS. Beasley finished with 12 points and Anthony King had nine.
Muskogee finished with 21 turnovers and hurt itself as well at the line, going 7-of-18 for a paltry 39 percent. Next for the Roughers is the Carl Albert Tournament in Midwest City on Thursday and a date with 4A No. 7 Tulsa Central in a 2:30 p.m. tipoff.