They may hail from Texas, but Fort Gibson has grown familiar with their semifinal opponent Friday night at the 40th Bedouin Shrine Classic.
And, the Lady Tigers knew where the offense of HSAA Dallas flowed from.
The solution: Sic the pit bull of your defense on her.
Thus, Zoey Whiteley put the clamps on Blue Angels point guard Gracen Williams and Fort Gibson rolled to a 60-31 win in a Large School Girls semifinal at Muskogee Civic Center.
Whiteley, on Williams most of the game, held her in check until checking out for good midway through the fourth quarter. Williams, who had 29 points in a first-round win over McAlester on Thursday, had just a 3-pointer and three free throws to her credit. Then with Whiteley on the bench, Williams scored on a drive with 3:07 to play, which merely cut the deficit under half, 51-26.
That’s one point different than the 51-27 win Fort Gibson had over the home school association out of the Metroplex in last year’s semifinal.
“I always love the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player,” said Whiteley, who also led her team offensively with 14 points. “We played awesome on defense and like the coaches say, it starts on defense and carries over to offense and I think that’s why we were also hitting our shots consistently.”
Tigers head coach Chuck London concurred.
“Zoey did a very good job, but it wasn’t limited to her,” he said. “It’s everybody doing their job guarding the ball and helping where they are supposed to help. I thought we played great team defense the whole game.”
HSAA, which plays an assortment of 6A public schools and private schools in Texas and even has an Australian national team on its 19-7 slate thus far, had a basket by Kaiya Thompson at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter to take its only lead at 3-2. They had just one free throw to show until Williams hit a pair with 2:32 to go until halftime.
In between, Fort Gibson ran off 15 unanswered points. Priscilla Cebrun’s 3 with 1:04 until half ended a field goal skid of just over 13 minutes.
Williams, who leads the Blue Angels averaging 15 points per game, was 0-for-5 in the first half and 2-for-10 for the game and yet still led her team in scoring with 8. Sophia Thompson had two 3s in the fourth and finished with 7.
“They’re a good team,” London said. “Their big girl (Sierra Headquist) is a stud, you know what (Williams) can do. (Cebrun) can hit it from the cheap seats and (Thompson) is quick as lightning and can hit the 3.
“But our girls were motivated to play and I think we definitely took a step forward tonight. We had a really good first half even though we were up just 12. Our goal was to win the third, we extended them early there when Baylee (London) hit a couple of quick 3s and got them on their heels. We didn’t have any letdowns. We went after them and were really aggressive.”
Baylee London had 10 points, all in the second half. Reese Webb was strong in the second quarter. hitting 3 of 4 shots for 7 of her 9 points. Mallory Baker had 7.
Headquist, a 6-0 post, had five of her six rebounds in the first half.
The Class 4A No. 4 Lady Tigers (7-1) will look to repeat as champions against Coweta at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center. Coweta, ranked 14th in 5A, showed its 5-7 record isn’t to be taken lightly as they routed previously unbeaten and No. 3 East Central (9-1) 62-33 on Friday.