CHECOTAH — It had been seven years since the Truman Dixon Fieldhouse had hosted a Checotah varsity basketball game. But the magic is still there.
With the fieldhouse’s namesake in attendance, the Lady Wildcats won their second straight district basketball title in as many years as they defeated Bridge Creek 53-44 in the Class 4A Area III District 4 competition in a game played at the compact old high school gym because the newer event center was hosting a Class A regional tournament.
“Playing in here tonight in front of Truman Dixon meant a lot to me because I admire that man tremendously for all that he’s done and the quality of man that he is,” said Lady Wildcat coach Jim Glover. “I was glad that we got a win playing in his gymnasium.”
With six players getting on the scoreboard in the first quarter, Checotah (13-11) jumped out to a 16-5 lead as the Lady Bobcats struggled, committing seven turnovers and hitting just 1-of-13 from the field in the quarter. Lainey Morrow got eight of her 16 points in the second quarter to bring Bridge Creek (10-13) to within seven points at 20-13 three minutes into the second quarter. But over the next three-and-a-half minutes the Wildcats rattled off seven straight points to open the lead back up to double digits and led 29-19 at intermission.
Checotah had their best quarter of the night in the third quarter according to Glover as they stretched the lead to 18 at one point but then lost some focus in the final stanza according to the head coach.
“We played like our hair was on fire in the final quarter. We played like we were behind instead of ahead. We didn’t execute our plan as well in the fourth quarter like we did in the third quarter and they managed to make a run.”
The Lady Wildcats were led by their big 6-3 senior center Olivia Clayton, who put in 14 points and had 13 rebounds.
“As a senior it was really exciting to get a district title for the second year and show Checotah that we’re going in an upward direction,” said Clayton. “I really enjoyed playing in the small gym tonight because it feels like the whole crowd is on top of you and it’s more lively and feels more like a hometown crowd than in the bigger event center.”
Two of Clayton’s team mates joined her in the double figures with Vanessa Henson putting in 11 points and Emma Waller adding 10.
Checotah 67, Bridge Creek 46
The smaller venue apparently agreed with the guys as well as they jumped on top 11-0 and never looked back in capturing the district championship.
To their credit, the Bobcats rallied back after their slow start that saw them go just 2-of-14 from the field in the first quarter as they managed to slice the deficit to six at one point, 16-10, before Checotah went on a 16-4 run to open up a 32-14 lead.
Bridge Creek got within shouting distance of the Wildcats (19-5) in the third quarter as they cut the Checotah lead to 13 points halfway through the quarter. But another scoring run of 15-4 by the Wildcats put the game away.
“My guys were ready to play and excited to play in the old gym tonight so it was fun,” said coach Jason Dowdy. “I thought we played a lot harder than we did Monday (in a 50-47 loss to Spiro) but there were times we played a little undisciplined especially in the first half.”
Caden Martin was the sparkplug for the Wildcats pouring in a team-high 23 points and he had plenty of help from Brenden Dan who had 14 points along with Caleb Wilmoth who added 11 points and Jacob Barrett who contributed 10 points in the winning effort.