By JOHN D. FERGUSON
TULSA — Tahlequah’s girls had every chance to win the Metro Lakes Conference battle with Bishop Kelley Tuesday night, but only scored two points in the final 1:11 as the Comets pulled away to a 54-51 victory before 300.
The Tigers (3-2) had too many key turnovers, shot horribly from 3-point range and missed six free throws. That would be enough of an opening for Kelley (3-1) to exploit.
The game featured 16 lead changes and eight ties, but it was the work of Comet center Seana Stoia that doomed Tahlequah. Stoia had a game-high 16 points and completed a double-double performance with 14 rebounds. Stoia’s rebounds were exactly half of team’s total of 28.
“She did a great job for us,” Kelley coach Jade Allison said of Stoia. “We knew Tahlequah was big. I was really proud of their effort.”
The Tigers made only one 3-pointer, had 16 turnovers and hit 10-of-16 from the free throw line. While the free throw percentage is above average, two of the missed charity shots came in the final 2:03 when Tahlequah desperately needed points.
“Bishop Kelley played well,” Tiger coach Chad Walker said. “I thought our defense was good. They only had a couple of open looks. They had to earn everything they got.”
Walker was not pleased with the turnovers, missed free throws and 3-point shooting.
“We can’t beat anybody, if we do those things,” Walker added.
Jhonett Cookson led the Tigers with 13 points and got a double-double with 10 rebounds. She also blocked three shots, but fouled out with 28 seconds left in the game.
Tahlequah teammates Desiree Phipps and Whitney Wright each had 10 points. Guard Marisa Girdner had five points and also fouled out in the final 30 seconds.
Casey Beaston helped Cookson inside with a team-high 12 rebounds and scored nine points.
The Tigers’ best moment came near the end of the third quarter. Tahlequah trailed 37-32 with 10 seconds left.
Phipps made 1-of-2 free throws with six seconds showing to ignite a 9-0 run. That put Tahlequah in the lead 41-37 with 5:39 left in the game.
The rally lost steam following a turnover and a missed shot and that was all Kelley’s Stoia would need. Stoia scored nine of her team’s 17 points the rest of the way to win.
Bishop Kelley 61, Tahlequah 48 (boys)
Coach Mike Leafgreen’s scouting report he filled out before playing the Comets was unfortunately spot on.
“I wrote on the scouting report next to their seven guards: Shooters,” Leafgreen said.
It was true. Bishop Kelley scored from anywhere with anyone. Nine of the 10 Comets that saw action in the Metro Lakes Conference game scored.
The final score is a bit deceiving. Take away Kelley’s 18-0 run from the end of the first quarter to almost the end of the second and the Tigers are right there.
Tahlequah (1-4) looked sharp for the first four minutes. The Tigers led 13-6 after a Lain Wright basket.
However, the Comets outscored Tahlequah 20-3 for the next 8 ? minutes.
“That first five or six minutes, we did what we needed to do,” Leafgreen added. “But, we need to figure out how to duplicate that (for the rest of the game).”
The Tigers fell behind 41-28 with 2:47 left in the third quarter, but made a little run to get Kelley’s attention.
Wright scored two baskets and hit two free throws to go with a pair of free throws by Dalton Cunningham. Suddenly, it is a five-point game at 41-36 with 56 seconds left in the quarter.
Just as quickly as Tahlequah made it close, the Comets surged again. A 3-point basket by guard Daniel Smith finished off an 8-2 run to rebuild the lead to 49-38.
“We’re pretty deep,” Kelley coach Danny Limes said. “We don’t have that one guy that has to stay on the floor. When you have that many kids that can score, it’s hard to focus on just one of them.”
Wright finished with a game-high 21 points and four assists. Teammate Jake Vader added five points, but also pulled down 11 rebounds.
Matt Craig led the Comets with 12 points and Josh Limes had 10 rebounds to go with eight points.
“They shoot the ball very well,” Leafgreen added. “They are as good a shooting team as I’ve seen.”
Unfortunately, Leafgreen’s appraisal before the game came true.
BISHOP KELLEY 54, TAHLEQUAH 51 (GIRLS)
Tahlequah 13 8 12 18 51
Bishop Kelley 14 10 13 17 54
Tahlequah: Cookson 13, Wright 10, Phipps 10, Beaston 9, Girdner 5, Wade 2, O’Donnell 2.
BISHOP KELLEY 61, TAHLEQUAH 48 (BOYS)
Tahlequah 16 7 13 12 48
Bishop Kelley 10 22 11 18 61
Tahlequah: Wright 21, Cunningham 11, Carlile 6, Vader 5, Dick 5.
Bishop Kelley: Craig 12, Jo. Limes 8, J.D. Limes 8, Litzinger 8, Adams 8, Carson 6, Smith 5, Irwin 4, Simpson 2.