By BEN JOHNSON
By the looks of it, you’d never be able to tell Jhonett Cookson was under the weather this week.
Allow her to explain.
“Two days ago, I had to go get my blood checked,” she said. “I had been feeling like I was anemic, and I started taking my iron right after that.”
So, what was in her diet that led to the speedy recovery?
Said the 6-foot-1 sophomore forward: “I’ve been eating a lot of red meat.”
It certainly worked.
Cookson finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds as Class 5A No. 9 Tahlequah thoroughly dismantled Skiatook, 59-27, in front of 750 at the TMAC.
“Great game [by Cookson],” said Tahlequah coach Chad Walker, whose team led wire to wire. “She ought to be doing that every game.”
With Skiatook hanging around early, Cookson spearheaded a Tahlequah run that would eliminate any chance of Skiatook coming back. A 5-4 Tahlequah lead quickly transformed into a 20-7 advantage by the end of the first period, thanks to Cookson’s eight points in the first eight minutes.
Another key contributor to the double-digit lead that Tahlequah would not lose: Skiatook turnovers. The Lady Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1 Metro Lakes Conference) handed the ball over 14 times in the first quarter.
Skiatook would finish the night with more turnovers (33) than points.
“It’s something that we have to continue to work on,” Skiatook coach Tatum Beer said. “...Every day we have to work on something, and today it was turnovers. It’ll be something we’ll have to go in and work on on Monday.”
Making matters worse for Skiatook, it had more turnovers than field-goal attempts. The Lady Bulldogs were a mere 8 of 29 from the floor.
“We knew their guards weren’t going to be real good, except for that No. 20 (Eden Henderson),” Walker said. “So we were playing them to the left and trying to overplay that and jumping the passing lanes. I thought (our girls) did a good job [of that].”
While Tahlequah didn’t torch the nets for its first time out, it did manage to shoot 38.7 percent (24 of 62) from the field. Minus five misses to start the game, the Lady Tigers nailed 8 of 15 shots in the first quarter.
Casey Beaston added 11 points for Tahlequah, which also out-rebounded Skiatook, 32-24, including 17-5 on the offensive glass.
“I probably shouldn’t say this — there isn’t nobody — but, we’ve got two great post players,” Walker said of Cookson and Beaston. “Those two stop themselves. We talked about that in the pregame, and I thought they went out and did a good job.”
For Tahlequah, a win over Skiatoook was a welcome sight after dropping two in the season series last year.
“They came out in the stinkin’ 2-3 zone and we struggled; and we shouldn’t,” Walker said. “But we figured some things out and put a high post up top, which allowed us to kick to the backside and slow down the defense.”
Leading the way for Skiatook was Henderson with 11 points on 2 of 11 shooting from the floor. Henderson, though, did go 5 of 7 from the free-throw line.
Mickayla Schulanberger — Skiatook’s leading scorer in its first game this season — was limited to four points, and Kortney Lincicome was only able to contribute six.
“Offense is hard,” Beer said. “Some nights it’s your night; some nights it’s not. (Schulanberger) had a great game for us the other night, but I’m sure Tahlequah heard about her and had their eye out for her. It just wasn’t there for her tonight.”
Tahlequah will be off until Thursday when it hosts Sand Springs in the first round of the Tiger Invitational.
“We just have to keep working for the next game,” Cookson said.
Tahlequah 59, Skiatook 27
Skia 7 8 6 6 -- 27
Tah 20 10 15 14 -- 59
Skiatook (1-1): Eden Henderson 11, Kortney Lincicome 6, Mikayla Schulanberger 4, Jessie Henderson 4, Paige Westover 2.
Tahlequah (1-0): Jhonett Cookson 16, Casey Beaston 11, Randee O’Donnell 8, Marisa Girdner 7, Maegan Blevins 5, Whitney Wright 4, Alissa Hadley 3, Lindsay Wade 3, Latreece Black 2.