By JOHN D. FERGUSON
SKIATOOK — Tahlequah’s Lady Tigers saw things a whole lot clearer when it came to shooting free throws at Skiatook’s Multipurpose Activity Center Friday night.
Tahlequah nailed crucial free throws when the pressure on was against a scrappy Bulldog team to prevail 44-40 in a Metro Lakes Conference basketball thriller.
Randee O’Donnell hit 3-of-4 fourth quarter free throws to hold on for the win. O’Donnell finished with 10 points and nailed 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Overall, the Tigers hit 6-of-10 from the foul line.
After missing 14 free throws Tuesday night in a loss at Claremore, coach Chad Walker had a novel idea to break the poor shooting.
“I had them wear blindfolds during practice,” Walker said.
The idea worked.
“That’s all we’ve been working on,” O’Donnell said. “If you can make them with your eyes closed, you should be able to do it with your eyes open.”
It was a good game for Tahlequah. The free throw percentage was up and the turnovers (eight) were down. That proved to be a winning combination.
“I was proud of them,” Walker added. “They did a good job of getting rid of the fear (of shooting free throws).”
Hobbled Casey Beaston led the Tigers with 15 points and scored a team-high three, 3-point baskets. She did all this on a sore ankle.
“Considering I came back from a hurt ankle, I thought I played to the best of my ability,” Beaston added.
The victory was in sharp contrast to the 59-37 blowout against the Bulldogs early in the season. Skiatook coach Tatum Beer had a reason for the improvement.
“That was our second game of the season and most of my players had never played a varsity game,” Beer said. “I could not ask for a better bunch of girls. They would run through a brick wall if I asked them.”
Jhonett Cookson scored 10 for Tahlequah (5-2 in league and 8-6 overall). Beaston and Whitney Wright each had four steals. Marisa Girdner and Beaston had two assists each.
Eden Henderson led Skiatook’s scoring with 14 and Mikayla Schulanberger added 10. Madison Stuckey pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. The Bulldogs stand 1-6 and 2-10 on the season.
Skiatook 62, Tahlequah (boys) 61, OT
Garrett Massey picked a rolling basketball that had somehow got through a sea of legs inside the paint, shot and scored with a less than a second left to give the Bulldogs an overtime victory.
The game was almost an exact replay of the one earlier in the season. Tahlequah had one last shot to win that night, but missed. This time it was Skiatook that had the last chance and cashed in.
It was a tough loss for the Tigers. Coach Mike Leafgreen’s team managed to send the game into overtime with two seconds left in regulation when Jake Vader rebounded Dalton Cunningham’s missed shot and scored the equalizer.
It was a back-and-forth contest. Tahlequah led 17-5 before Skiatook unleashed six, first-half 3-point baskets.
The Tigers (2-5 in league and 4-10 overall) rebuilt the lead to 43-34 before the Bulldogs rallied again. Skiatook led 54-52 with 24 seconds left in regulation before Vader’s big basket.
Vader also gave Tahlequah its last lead off a beautiful assist from Will Carlile with 22 seconds remaining in overtime. Vader’s clutch shot made it 61-60.
That would set the stage for the wild finish. Skiatook came down the court and the ball seemed to go everywhere before Massey picked it up and scored.
“We showed some good signs,” Leafgreen said. “Mentally, we had a few errors and the coach did, too, but the effort was good and defensively we were good.”
The wild finish overshadowed four Tigers scoring 10 or more points. Vader had a double-double performance with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Cunningham had a game-high 14 points and Lain Wright and Carlile each scored 10 points.
A.J. Surritte hit a game-high 25 points for Skiatook (3-4 and 5-7) and had nine rebound. Big Jesse Haynes scored only nine, but had 14 rebounds and was a force to contend with in the middle all night. Massey tallied 11.
TAHLEQUAH 44, SKIATOOK 40 (GIRLS)
Tahlequah 18 7 9 10 44
Skiatook 13 8 12 7 40
Tahlequah: Beaston 15, O’Donnell 10, Cookson 10, Wright 5, Hadley 3, Girdner 1.
Skiatook: E. Henderson 14, Schulanberger 10, Linciome 8, Stuckey 6, Westover 2.
SKIATOOK 62, TAHLEQUAH 61, OT (BOYS)
Tahlequah 17 8 18 11 7 61
Skiatook 8 20 14 12 8 62
Tahlequah: Cunningham 14, Vader 13, Alberty 11, Carlile 10, Wright 10, Moore 3.
Skiatook: Surritte 25, Massey 11, Lawless 11, Haynes 9, Lester 3, Estes 3.