WAGONER—With 5:10 to play and sitting on a 15-point lead, the Wagoner Bulldogs looked like they might make a sweep of the season series with Fort Gibson for the first time in memory.
But Conner Calavan, who had been held to just seven points through three quarters, took the Tigers on his back.
The senior poured in 14 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning bucket with 10 seconds to play, while the Fort Gibson defense held Wagoner scoreless for the final five minutes as the Tigers staged an improbable 52-50 comeback win over the Bulldogs at the Hughes Event Center Tuesday night.
The win for the Tigers avenged a 50-47 loss to the Bulldogs last month.
“I wasn’t having a very good game and I couldn’t get any shots to fall so I knew I had to start attacking the basket to make something happen,” said Calavan. “I knew I needed to attack or be dishing the ball off at the end if we were going to have any chance of winning.”
The first three quarters belonged to the Bulldogs (16-5) as they shot 42 percent from the field, forced 17 Fort Gibson turnovers and beat the Tigers (15-6) in transition to build their lead. Playing with a gimpy Tommy French and minus an ill Seth Rowan, the Tigers played with a makeshift lineup and even though they trailed most of the game, kept within shouting distance of the Bulldogs.
“We kept talking and knew if we could be within single digits in the fourth quarter, we’d have a chance to pull it out,” said Tigers’ coach Todd Dickerson. “I think in the fourth quarter our intensity level picked up a little, we quit turning the ball over and we were fortunate enough to make some shots, got them to miss a couple and things fell our way.”
With 5:10 to play in the game, Wagoner owned a 50-35 advantage. But as Calavan heated up, along with Jaxon Blunt, who had five crucial points in the final quarter, the Bulldogs went 0-for-9 from the field. Fort Gibson finally tied the game at 50-all with 1:56 left. The teams traded possessions and each took a time out, the Tigers calling theirs with :36 left.
Inbounding, they committed a turnover giving Wagoner a chance for the final shot. The Bulldogs got the ball in the paint to Caden Pawpa who missed a shot, got his own rebound but had Calavan swat away his follow shot. The Tigers got the ball into the frontcourt where Calavan made a move around a defender and went to the bucket for the go-ahead basket.
Wagoner had a final chance but a shot by Pawpa was blocked by French to end the game as the Fort Gibson crowd erupted.
Although a big win for the 14th-ranked Tigers, Dickerson put things in perspective.
“We don’t put a lot of emphasis on this game or any of the regular season games. We want to be at our best when the games really start mattering on February 22 (when the Tigers host Sallisaw in the district playoffs).”
Blunt joined Calavan in double figures for the Tigers with 12 points while Caden Dennis added 10. For the Bulldogs, Sawyer Jones led the scoring with 13 points while Jacob Scroggins and Pawpa each had 11.
Wagoner coach Zac Ange was not available for comment after the game.
Girls:Fort Gibson 69, Wagoner 24
The third-ranked Lady Tigers captured their 20th win of the season against just one loss. They broke out of a 6-4 lead early on and scored 29 unanswered points to easily capture the win.
“Our size and our defense really gave them a lot of problems,” said Fort Gibson coach Chuck London. “I thought we ran the floor well and hit open shots and moved the ball around well. It was a really good performance by our kids.”
It was the second easy win over the Lady Bulldogs for Fort Gibson this season. London admitted there has to be a sense of challenge from the coaches to keep the team from thinking too much about past encouters.
“We challenge our girls to be ready to play every game regardless of what has transpired before,” said London. “It’s a fun game and the girls enjoy playing with each other, but we talk about our intensity level at every quarter and at halftime and I think our senior leadership on this team plays a big part in making sure we are ready every game.:
Again a lot of Lady Tigers got in on the action with 11 players scoring, led by Zoey Whiteley and Emma Wafford with 12 points each. Frankie Clark was the leading scorer for Wagoner (3-18) with eight points.
The Tigers are on the road again Thursday at McAlester, while Wagoner is off until next Monday when it hosts Catoosa.