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Owasso girls survive Bishop Kelley in Port City Classic semifinals; Tahlequah uses big first half to reach title game

Owasso was up by 10 points in the third quarter but saw the lead cut to two with two minutes left.

By Buck Ringgold | Photos by Karen Schwartz

CATOOSA — With all five starters returning from a rebuilding season in 2020-21, Owasso girls basketball coach Tobey Nightingale has seen continued improvement from her squad.

She's also liking the ways the Lady Rams are handling the close games. Case in point, Friday afternoon's game against Bishop Kelley in the semifinals of the Port City Classic.

Up by 10 points late in the third quarter, Owasso saw its lead dwindle down to two with less than two minutes left. But the Lady Rams got a big offensive rebound and put-back shot to help weather the storm, and Owasso went on to a 39-34 win against the Lady Comets at Catoosa High School.

"Last year would have been a struggle for us," Nightingale said. "I think just the experience that we had this year, learning how to manage the clock and what we need in certain situations, is like what we're looking for.

"We've had a lot of growth and just learning those things in the late-game situations; what we want to do, who we want to get the ball to, how to manage the clock and I think that just all goes off of growth and experience from last year."

Owasso (8-6) built an 11-4 lead after the first quarter and was ahead by five at the half, 16-11.

The Lady Rams then pushed that lead to 10, 29-19, when senior Taylor Rose knocked down a 3-pointer late in the third.

Bishop Kelley (8-6), ranked in the top 10 in Class 5A, made a run midway through the final quarter. The Lady Comets got within two, 31-29, as Madeline Barton and Leah Ames hit back-to-back 3's.

Kelley made it another two-point Owasso lead with 1:45 left, as two Barton foul shots made it 33-31.

On the next possession, the Lady Rams drew a foul and Rose went to the line in a one-and-one situation.

Rose hit the first free throw but missed the second. However, the ball landed in the hands of her sophomore teammate, Makenna Yokley, who immediately put the ball back in through the net, giving the Lady Rams a 36-31 lead.

"It was huge," Nightingale said. "That was a huge offensive rebound and put-back; that kind of sealed the lead for us and extended that when we needed that, so that was a crucial moment for her to put back that rebound.

"Yokley's been important to us this year; our posts, her and Ellie (Morrill) have been a big part of our own success so far this season, so we have really tried to establish that post presence early, and that stick-back was key for us at the end of the game for sure."

After Yokley's stick-back, Bishop Kelley attempted a 3 but it was off target, and Owasso senior Chloe Stocksen grabbed the rebound. That set up two foul shots from Morrill, who hit both with 24 seconds left for a 38-31 lead.

Rose added another free throw with 5.9 seconds to go, as Lady Comet senior Rachel Avedon hit a 3 at the buzzer for the final five-point margin.

"There was a little bit (of panic), but I think we all kept a level head and just finished strong at the end," Rose said in response to Kelley cutting Owasso's lead to two late.

"I think (it was a matter of) just not panicking and just making those good, last-minute shots really helped us."

Like her coach, Rose believes the experience she and her teammates gained a season ago is really paying dividends these days.

"I think it's been going pretty good," Rose said. "We're definitely doing a lot better than we were last year; we're a lot stronger and we've got a lot of players with a lot of experience, so I'm excited for the rest of the season."

Morrill, a senior, had 12 points while sophomore Seldon Stover added 11 in the win. Owasso also held a 30-15 edge in rebounding, and Yokley nearly had a double-double with 12 rebounds to go with nine points.

Owasso will now play for the Port City Classic championship at 7 p.m. Saturday against Tahlequah, which beat Catoosa in Friday's other semifinal.

Barton led the Lady Comets with 12 points, all but one coming after halftime, and Avedon had 11 points and made three 3's. Bishop Kelley will take on Catoosa in Saturday's third-place game.

Tahlequah 69, Catoosa 29

The Lady Tigers got five players in double figures as they rode a huge first quarter to the win in Friday's semifinals.

Tahlequah raced out to a 10-2 lead and later went up 31-8 in the final seconds of the opening quarter. The Lady Tigers then built a 50-17 advantage at halftime.

"I liked the way we started, and the press got us going as always, and we turned our defense into offense," Lady Tiger coach David Qualls said. "We had a really good first quarter, 31 points, and we had a 50-point first half and shot the ball well at times. We were balanced inside-out, and we just had a really good start.

"It was one of those games where we could get everybody in and get them some good experience and playing time. Good win for us and we're excited for (Saturday) and the championship game."

Smalls Goudeau led the Lady Tigers with 15 points, 13 coming in the first half. Lily Couch added 12 points, and she made three 3's.

Faith Springwater scored nine of her 11 points in the second quarter, while Jadyn Buttery and Lydia McAlvain rounded out the rest of the Lady Tiger double-figure scorers with 10 each.

"I think five is a first; we've had four before," Qualls said. "We had really good balance (Friday). Lily Couch came off the bench and played great, Jadyn Buttery continues to play really well for us, Smalls led us (Friday); she missed the game (Thursday in the first round) because she didn't feel well, so it was good to see her back in there.

"Really, everybody came in and did their job; we're more dangerous when we're balanced like that and we can have five in double figures, so that's always really good to see."

Tahlequah (13-2) is playing in 6A this season after having played in the 5A title game last season, so Qualls is looking forward to seeing what the Lady Tigers can do against another ranked 6A opponent.

"They're solid," Qualls said of Owasso. "They're big; good post player, couple of good shooters.

"It's a good 6A ranked opponent for us to go play; we don't get a chance to see a lot of them in our conference, so we're excited about the opportunity."

Catoosa (8-8) got 11 points from Brynna Wiginton, a freshman.