By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
OKLAHOMA CITY — The third time, unfortunately for top-ranked Fort Gibson, wasn’t a charm.
Leading early in the second half by 11 and owning an eight-point lead late in the third quarter, even holding on midway into the fourth quarter, it looked like it would be.
But third-ranked Star Spencer got hot when it counted and the Lady Tigers went cold when it mattered the most, scoring just two points in the final four minutes and with it, were denied for the third straight time at the threshold of grabbing a Class 4A gold ball, losing 51-43 at State Fair Arena on Saturday night.
Star Spencer’s Sharene Campbell’s short jumper in the lane gave the Lady Bobcats their first lead since the opening quarter, 36-34, but Kendra Dean answered on a drive, came up with a steal at the other end off a Bobcat break and Mikki Stone took the outlet pass and scored on a running layup for a 39-36 advantage and a huge momentum swing.
Or so it seemed.
Miller took a feed from Taylor Wilson for a 41-39 lead, and Star Spencer answered with a 12-2 run, including the last nine points.
Dean sank a pair of free throws for a 43-42 lead with 1:21 to play and it would be Fort Gibson’s last lead. Tajai Rodgers countered with a 3 with 1:13 to play to make it 45-43 and Fort Gibson would come up empty handed on three straight possessions, leaving seniors like Kendra Dean and Terra Mackey facing a combination of tears and shock, as well as others, on the court during the trophy presentations as they received silver for the third consecutive year.
Last year, they led in the final two minutes to Weatherford and lost. After beating the defending champions on Thursday and handing Vinita its first loss on Friday, this didn’t seem like the outcome Saturday would provide.
Asked what went wrong in the final few minutes, Brennan Miller, whose 3-point touch took command earlier for FGHS, just shrugged and walked off the court.
It was just as painful for FGHS coach Jerry Walker, who is still seeking his first gold ball.
“The game turned when we didn’t handle the press well,” Walker said. “We didn’t get enough spacings and had too big of gaps in our press offense.
“The girls that got the shots to get them back, especially the 3s, we just didn’t do a good enough job in recognition on the court. We knew who their shooters were and it also seemed like every single time they needed a big basket, they got it.”
Asked if this one stung more than the other two, his eyes teared up. “They all hurt,” he said, slumping against a rail outside the team’s locker room.
Miller had three of the Lady Tigers’ four first-half 3-pointers, her first putting her team in front for the first time at 9-8 with 1:45 to play in the opening period. Her last one gave FGHS a 24-16 lead with 1:13 left in the half. Mackey’s 3 with 6:51 left in the third quarter gave the Lady Tigers a 29-18 lead, their biggest of the game.
Star Spencer would close to within 37-34 at quarter’s end.
Mackey finished with a team-high 15 points and shared game-high honors with Campbell and Kiana Morris.
Star Spencer, which split a season series with 3A champion Millwood in conference play in the regular season, finishes at 28-1. Fort Gibson, which held the top spot in the class for most of the season, fell to 26-3.
By Mike Kays