FORT GIBSON — Class 4A No. 3 Fort Gibson’s bid for a 16th consecutive state tournament trip to got off to a good start Saturday, winnign a Class 4A Area IV district title with a 58-25 win over Sallisaw at Harrison Fieldhouse.
Shaking off the effects of a Monday night loss to Sequoyah, Fort Gibson started slow but played a solid man-to-man defense holding the Lady Black Diamonds to just one field goal in the first quarter and the 8-3 lead they held at the end of the quarter would be the closest Sallisaw would get the rest of the game. The Lady Tigers opened the game without the services of starter Reese Webb who is nursing an injury and coach Chuck London pointed to that as one of the reasons for a slow start.
“One of the biggest reasons we started off slow was we had some different pieces of the puzzle in the game tonight and it took the girls awhile to get adjusted to that. We were playing good defense and that allowed us to kind of find our way on offense,” he said.
Up 15-7 halfway through the second quarter, the Lady Tigers went on an 11-0 run to lead 26-7, forcing 13 Sallisaw turnovers and limiting the Black Diamonds to just 3-of-10 from the field in the half.
One of the different pieces of the puzzle London spoke of was junior center Lexie Foutch, who got the start in place of Webb and ended up as the leading scorer for Fort Gibson with 19 points and eight rebounds.
“It was her time to step up with our injury situation and she’s been coming on the last five or six weeks and seeing more playing time,” said London. “We put her in in big situations and I felt good with her in there.”
Sophomore Jenna Whiteley who came off the bench and scored 11 points.
For Foutch, who at 6-1 gives the Lady Tigers some needed size in the paint, getting the starting call was thrilling.
“I was really excited to start and glad the coach had me prepared and I’m thankful for my team mates who kept feeding me the ball,” said Foutch. “My play really has improved a lot since the start of the season and I thank the coaches for that.”
Fort Gibson (22-2) outscored Sallisaw 19-6 in the third quarter to salt the game away. Emma Wafford also made double figures for the Lady Tigers with 12 points. Kasha Tehee and Taite Stites both had 10 points for Sallisaw (13-11).
Boys: FTG 52, Sallisaw 37
For the first time all season, coach Todd Dickerson put the team on the floor to start that he envisioned when the season began. Tegan Thornbrugh, who has recently returned from a season-long injury, and Tommy French, who’s been battling a leg injury the past three weeks, both started for Tigers as they captured the district title.
Fort Gibson (17-7) got off to a hot start hitting 8-of-14 from the field in the first quarter to lead 17-11. But things turned cold from the field for the Tigers in the second quarter as they went just 1-of-8 allowing Sallisaw to close the gap and tie the game at 22-all at halftime.
The Tigers got the first eight points out of the gate in the third quarter but the Black Diamonds hung tough as they closed back to within five at 33-28 after three quarters. However, a 12-0 run to open the final period by the Tigers was the back-breaker for Sallisaw (10-14) as Fort Gibson led by 17 and never looked back.
“We played better in the second half,” said Dickerson. “We got them to miss some shots, finished on the break better and got some more transition points and we rebounded better in the second half as well.”
Thornbrugh was the only player in double figures for the Tigers with 11 points.