By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
BIXBY – Muskogee reverted back to what coach Doyle Rowland knows has worked here Tuesday night, and freshman Aaliyah Wilson was the tool he went to work with.
After a miserable shooting effort in the first half, Muskogee raised an increased defensive effort to hyper-level in the third quarter. With Wilson at the forefront of a trapping, pressure attack, Muskogee forced 13 third-quarter turnovers to turn a four-point halftime deficit into a 41-34 lead going into the fourth, then rolled to a 60-44 win to ruin the Lady Spartans’ Senior Night.
Wilson was also the offensive turnaround for the Lady Roughers, scoring 12 of her team-high 21 points in the quarter. She had two points in the first half, which saw Muskogee trail at one point 17-5 moments before Kelsey McClure, who finished with 19 points, connected on a 3-pointer with 7.0 seconds to go in the opening eight minutes.
“It always works,” Rowland said. “When our defense is rolling our offense feeds off of it.”
And he credited Wilson for her part.
“That long-armed girl makes it tough on a team’s point guard because she’ll create a lot of bad passes. They’ll usually don’t pass it in on the strong side and Kelsey goes to the weak side, and that just plays right into our hands,” he said.
Wilson’s basket off a break with 2:13 to play put MHS up 56-39, its biggest lead. She capped a 10-0 run with a shot at the buzzer to end the third quarter, her team up 41-34.
“We had to pick up our intensity on defense to help out our offense, and it gave us a mental boost,” Wilson said.
The win snaps a two-game losing streak for the No. 2 Lady Roughers (18-4, 9-4 Frontier Conference), who completed a sweep of the No. 3-ranked team in 6A, which fell to 16-6 and 9-4.
“To be honest, we haven’t been into it mentally, but we’re picking that up,” she said. “When we’re losing, the coaches are mad, and that locker room’s a quiet place. It’s pretty loud in there right now. That’s the way we want it.”
Minus 6-footer Stevi Parker (19 points, 7 rebounds in the opener) who is out for the season with a stress fracture and ligament damage in an ankle, Mariah Knox more than picked up the slack inside, going 4-of-4 with five rebounds as Bixby ran off to the 12-point first-quarter advantage before McClure’s 3-pointer at the 7.0 mark ended the opening eight minutes with the Lady Spartans up 17-8.
Before McClure’s connection, the Lady Roughers were 1-of-7 from the field, a trend that continued with a 4-of-15 second quarter. The 5-of-23 effort wasn’t limited to the field. They were 4-of-14 from the free-throw line. By comparison they were 18-of-35 from the field in the second half and 6-of-10 from the line.
Lanice Rozell also gave Muskogee some big inside presence in the second half, scoring six points and hauling in three of her four rebounds.
Knox didn’t shoot in the second quarter. Instead, she and Allie Alvstad both set screens for guard Christina Devers. Devers was just 2-of-6, but she was the only shooter in the second quarter for the Lady Spartans. She finished as Bixby’s top scorer with 22. Knox had 17.
“We were playing in front of (Knox) and behind her and once we got across to play on her sides it stopped a lot of that. Credit (assistant coach) Rudel Wilson for that adjustment,” Rowland said.
Bixby 44, MHS 35
It was a game waiting for someone’s offense to take charge.
Bixby’s finally did, sort of.
The Spartans (9-13, 4-9) shot 2-of-20 in the first half, Muskogee 5-of-16 and took the lead on back-to-back baskets by Tramal Ivy on a tip-in and Anthony King’s putback off Tavian Davis’ missed 3, 12-9 at the half.
Losing its fifth straight game, the Roughers (8-14, 4-9) then managed one third-quarter basket, by Aaron Givens underneath the ring at the 1:33 mark. Bixby put up 16 points, shooting 6-of-12 in the quarter, to almost double their halftime totals. Seven Muskogee turnovers also hurt the Roughers.
“We didn’t come out ready to play the second half. We were walking around, casual and gave them some quick and easy layups and some confidence, then throw in all those turnovers and not communicating on defense,” said a frustrated Roughers coach Josh Berry. “It’s back to the drawing board.”
Except for a reversal in outcomes, the low-scoring affair wasn’t much different in the end than the 44-38 MHS win over Bixby at home in the first meeting. If there was a positive for Muskogee, it managed to bypass its previous low in points, 33 in a Bedouin Shrine Classic loss to Jenks. That, and starting point guard David Beasley returned after missing three games due to a concussion. He finished with four points and fouled out of the game with 13 seconds to play on an illegal screen call.
Adding to the negatives, both MHS teams close out the regular season at Union. For the boys, that means back-to-back games with the team they’ll face to begin regionals next week in Stillwater.
Ivy led MHS with 14 points while Anthony King finished with seven. Brayden Fivecoats led Bixby with nine points.
Both MHS teams close out the regular season Friday at Union.