By Ron Holt
Patience, composure, and discipline were displayed by seventh-ranked Bixby last weekend as the Lady Spartans captured two impressive victories at BHS’s Whitey Ford Field House.
Bixby, winners of five of its last six games, answered every challenge in terminating a losing streak against Class 5A’s top-ranked Sapulpa with a spirited 55-50 overtime win over the Lady Chieftains last Friday night (Jan. 15).
“We’ve battled with them, but we’ve never come out with a win in the last five games. Tonight, the girls kept their composure with the vision of what we were trying to do,” BHS head coach Tina Thomas said of the win over Sapulpa, 9-2. “Every player on the court stepped up big-time … I couldn’t be prouder.”
The Lady Spartans followed that emotional victory with a dominating 88-31 rescheduled Frontier Valley Conference victory over Owasso (1-9) last Saturday evening. The game was originally scheduled last Tuesday.
“The girls came out ready to go tonight, they did what they should have done,” Thomas said of the Owasso win. Sophomore post Meredith Mayes added, “We carried our energy over from last night to this game … we didn’t take it for granted.”
Bixby, 10-4 overall and 4-0 in the conference, led Sapulpa 20-15 midway through the second quarter before the Lady Chieftains used a late field goal by 6-1 senior standout Temira Poindexter to claim a 26-23 halftime advantage.
Trailing 28-25 early in the third quarter, Bixby used a three-pointer by Gentry Baldwin, field goals by Mayes and Alyssa Nielsen and a free throw by Kate Bradley to take a 33-28 lead with 3:07 left in the stanza but SHS rallied to lead 34-33 going into the final quarter.
A drive by Stailee Heard gave Sapulpa a 42-40 lead with 1:33 left in the game. A bank shot by Mayes off a pass from Baldwin tied the game at 42-all with 1:13 left. SHS’s Heard misfired on a field goal attempt with 30 seconds left and Baldwin grabbed the rebound. Bixby called a timeout with 13 seconds left but a couple of decent looks by Mayes and Nielsen failed to connect at the final buzzer forcing overtime.
Three-pointers by Baldwin and Bradley lifted Bixby to a 48-44 lead with 2:29 left in the extra session before sophomore Gracy Wernli hit a layup and three free throws and Bradley sank a pair of free throws in the final 46 seconds to allow BHS to pull away for the impressive win.
Bixby relied on a balanced offensive attack and a defensive effort which held Sapulpa’s leading scorer – -Poindexter – to 10 points. Heard led SHS in scoring with 12 points.
“Sapulpa is an awesome team and Darlene (Calip) is an awesome coach, that’s a great program over there. Our girls played smart, heady basketball and this was the first time in the last five games that we’ve out-rebounded them,” coach Thomas said.
“The girls showed a lot of poise, we talked about taking quality shots and it didn’t matter how long it took us to get the quality shot.”
Bixby had four players in double figures, led by Wernli’s 13 points followed by Baldwin with 12, Bradley with 11 and Nielsen 11. Mayes contributed eight points.
“It was amazing, like the best feeling in the world. We needed that win,” Baldwin said. “In this game everyone worked so hard. We really played like a team and it showed. We worked in practice on being able to handle the pressure.
“Defensively, we focused on taking out their two strongest players and trying to limit what they could do and make other players show up.”
Bradley, a senior guard, agreed. “This was a huge game for our team. We stayed calm and tried to play our game and get good shots. That’s the best our team has handled pressure against one of the best teams we’ve played … it’s a great feeling.”
Bixby impressively left the euphoria of the Sapulpa win behind in the rescheduled game with Owasso, jumping out front 11-0 early en route to a 21-4 first quarter lead. The Lady Spartans continued dominating on both ends of the court in the second quarter, pulling away for a 41-14 halftime lead.
Offensively, Bixby featured another balanced attack with Mayes finishing with 16 points, Bradley and Wernli scoring 15 points each, followed by Nielsen with 12, Laci Scott nine, Baldwin and Jyllian Mays with eight each, Lexi Eaves with three and Haley Prince with two.
Mayes and Nielsen were dominant in the paint, finishing with 13 and six rebounds, respectively.
“We played our game and didn’t come into this game with the big head. Everyone who stepped on the floor had a great game,” said Mayes. “I think I’m playing with more confidence … my teammates help me so much because they believe in me.
“We have great balance of outside shooting and in the middle … that really helps our team,” she added.
Nielsen added, “Coach said before the game that we had a big win last night, but we can’t overlook anybody. We knew we needed to be ready to play and we needed to bring the same energy we had last night.
“Rebounding has been my focus this year, I’ve tried working hard on improving my rebounding. In the past I was thinking mainly about points but this year I’m working to become a better rebounder.”
NOTEBOOK – Bixby returns to action Tuesday, Jan. 19, when the Lady Spartans visit Booker T. Washington, starting at 6:30 p.m. It’s the only game scheduled during the week. … Sapulpa defeated Bixby three times last season and had recorded a 63-55 win over BHS in the semifinals of the Bixby Invitational earlier this season. … In the Owasso game, Lady Spartan reserves played several minutes to finish out the win. “Those kids show up and work their tail off every day. They are our scout team and our unsung heroes. For them to get on the floor and have a little success was great,” coach Thomas said.
BIXBY 55, SAPULPA 50 (OT)
Sapulpa 13 13 8 8 8 -50
Bixby 12 11 10 9 13-55
Bixby Scoring – Wernli 13, Baldwin 12, Bradley 11, Nielsen 11, Mayes 8.
BIXBY 88, OWASSO 33
Owasso 4 10 7 10-31
Bixby 21 20 27 20-88
Bixby Scoring – Mayes 16, Bradley 15, Wernli 15, Nielsen 12, Scott 9, Baldwin 8, Mays 8, Eaves 3, Prince 2.