FORT GIBSON — It was the kind of game that a team that’s used to winning pretty handily needs every now and then.
And that’s just what the Fort Gibson girls got Friday night as they had to dig deep into the bench and their psyche to hold off a determined Coweta team 44-37 in the finals of the Fort Gibson Festival at Harrison Field House.
“We preach the tougher team wins,” said Fort Gibson coach Chuck London. “And in the fourth quarter our physicality and toughness in the post is what won the game for us.”
Fort Gibson jumped out to an early lead which reached 10 points at one time in the second quarter and after Coweta cut it back to six, Kynzi London hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the home team a nine-point lead at the break. The bucket was one of five treys that London canned on the night to lead Fort Gibson with 15 points. But then Coweta, led by the dynamic Linda Brice with 24 points, stormed back in the third quarter.
“We played well in the first quarter and not quite as well in the second quarter,” said coach London. “But we came out flat and they came out hot in the third quarter and it was game on.”
Coweta jumped out to start the second half with seven unanswered points to cut the Fort Gibson lead to two at 24-22. Later, with the lead down to a single point, Fort Gibson scored nine straight at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter to open a 10-point lead at 35-25.
“I thought in the fourth quarter we had a line up on the floor that had found its rhythm. We were doing what we needed to do inside and everything worked from there, whether it was inside out for a 3 or taking it to the basket inside.”
Fort Gibson’s superior depth played a big role as London kept substituting until he found the right combination that included some players that aren’t used to key roles.
“We’re a pretty deep team and we’ve got a lot of different kids. Feather Two Shields hit a couple of key 3-pointers. Jenna Whiteley did a great job on defense. Jordan Hayes and Lexie Foutch stepped in for some valuable minutes and it’s like I tell the girls you never know when your number might be called and some girls found out it was their time tonight.”
But London saved his top praise for senior Reese Webb, making just her second appearance this year after a long rehab from a leg injury last year and scoring 10 points in Fort Gibson’s second-half push.
“She was a little hesitant inside but that’s understandable. It didn’t surprise me what she did, it just surprised me that she did it in just her second game back. She had a tremendous game.”
With both teams ranked in the top 10 in their respective classes, Fort Gibson (7-1) being fourth in 4A and Coweta (3-5) being seventh in 5A, London knew it would be a battle.
“I knew their size would bother us. Their length gave us some problems and they did a good job on us,” said London. “Brice is a stud. She hadn’t been hitting the 3s but tonight she hit four treys on us. She’s a tough girl.”
Coweta 80, Fort Gibson 50
Coweta blistered the Fort Gibson zone defense from the outside with six 3-pointers in the first quarter and then used the inside play of post man Jacob Mills to jump out to a big lead and never looked back.
Brady Robl had the eagle eye from outside in the first quarter as he canned four of the six treys for Coweta (4-2) as they led 23-9 after the first quarter. Meanwhile Fort Gibson struggled from the field going just 2-of-14 in the first quarter and dug a hole they could not get out of.
For the game Coweta was 15-of-32 from beyond the arc.
Mills was the leading scorer for Coweta with 15 points to go along with 13 rebounds while Robl had 14 and Mason Ford added 12 points.
Caden Daniels was the leading scorer for Fort Gibson (3-5) with nine points and Max Wicks had eight.
Fort Gibson will be on the road for its next encounter Tuesday at Catoosa.
Hilldale 82, Westville 67
The Hornets bounced back from Thursday’s 81-52 loss to Coweta, placing four players in double figures in Friday’s win.
Hilldale coach Scott Hensley said he was very happy with the play of his team.
“I was really pleased with the boys with the effort they put forth,” he said. “It was a good response. They did a good job of running and playing hard and I really appreciate that.
Hilldale (2-3) was led by Evan Smith who poured in 24 points. He was followed by Ty O’Neal with 19 points, Rylan Nail with 18 points and Grayson Lawson with 12 points.
The Hornets led 23-14 at the end of the first quarter and 38-32 at the half. They stretched their lead to 66-45 after three quarters.
“We got out and pressed them and got up and down the floor pretty good,” Hensley said. “I told them after the game it was probably the most unselfish game I’ve seen us play all year long which made me feel really good.”
Hilldale is off until Tuesday when it hosts Locust Grove, but it won’t be relaxing.
“We’ll be working on getting better on defense,” Hensley said. “Continuing to bring that effort.”
The Hilldale girls game with Westville was cancelled.
— Ronn Rowland