By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
With its leading scorer’s health in question, Muskogee needed a team effort – and a big solution on defense.
No sweat on either.
Kelsey McClure’s hip flexor didn’t keep her off the court. She poured in a game-high 22 points, and the defense headed by the sister act pressure of guards Alexus Wilson and Aaliyah Wilson and the rebounding of forwards Mari Jackson and off the bench, Lanice Rozell.
No sweat – the Lady Roughers walked away with a 62-49 win, their second consecutive regional championship, a 20th win in 25 contests and a berth in the Class 6A East Area finals on Thursday opposite Tulsa Washington.
“We played defense this time,” Alexus Wilson said about the final game at Ron Milam Gymansium for she, McClure and Jackson. “The last time we played them (a 64-62 overtime loss Feb. 11 at BA) we didn’t and you remember I said Thursday we needed to.”
That was following a 53-29 win over Moore in which McClure rested a hip flexor she allegedly strained during the Bixby game the day after the BA loss. She finished that game and played that Friday against Union without much of a hint of any issue.
Broken Arrow coach Mike Hughes left thinking McClure would make a pretty good actor. She finished with 22 points – not quite the 63 combined in the previous two meetings, but good enough to lead all scorers and four Lady Roughers in double figures.
“Possum,” he said. “She didn’t look like a player that had been hurt. I’ll say that.”
Not so, said Doyle Rowland, the Lady Roughers coach.
“Seeing her sit that game Thursday and talking to her, I could tell that was one of the hardest things she ever went through and I knew she was ready to go when I first saw her today,” he said. “I just told her not to try and do too much and let the other girls help you.”
McClure said trainer Whitney Padgett pulled her out of Monday’s practice.
“I didn’t want to sit and let my team down last week. I needed the rest but Thursday was tough for me, both physically and emotionally,” McClure said.
Toree Thompson, who had 33 points in the overtime win for BA, was the target when Muskogee went to a zone scheme that especially paid dividends in the second quarter. The junior guard finished with a team-high 17 points. But she had one field goal – a 3-pointer – in what became a 15-4 Lady Roughers’ run that ended with Aerious King’s putback for the first points of the third quarter and a 49-34 lead. Tigers’ forward Amari Dennis, the only other Lady Tiger in double figures with 16, had just two first-half field goals.
The Lady Tigers (14-10) were 2-of-11 in the second quarter, their worst shooting eight minutes of the contest. The Wilson girls bore down on Thompson and Jackson rebounded many of the misses – eight of her 15 boards on that end. She also had 12 points. BA was outrebounded for the game, 38-24. Rozell had four of her five rebounds, all on the defensive end, in the third quarter.
“Aaliyah and Alexus locked (Thompson) down and they’re two of the best defenders on our team. They’re both long and, that’s the way it fell. We showed them who the boss really is,” Jackson said.
Alexus Wilson had 12 points, her freshman sister scored 10.
The site for Thursday’s area championship game is to be determined. The Lady Roughers would qualify for their second state tournament appearance in as many years with a win but could come away with a consolation win on Saturday
BA will face Mustang, which lost to Washington, also on Thursday.