It was a seesaw scoring ride for both Claremore High School basketball teams Tuesday night as they played at home for the first time this year. Their hot and cold offenses produced different results, however.
Despite getting only seven points in the first quarter and five in the third, the Zebra boys broke loose at the end to dump Coweta, 55-48, in Six Lakes Conference play.
The Lady Zebras' inability to score more than seven points in either the second or fourth periods, however, proved costly.
Coweta surprised Claremore's girls, 45-40. The defeat was the first conference loss at home for the Lady Zebras since the final game in 2001.
Chris Bottoms took a hard elbow to the mouth early in the second half. He made the visitors pay for the blow down the stretch. With a game high 23 points, Bottoms hit 10 straight free throws and a pair of layups in the fourth quarter.
"One of their players came down with a rebound and hit me square in the mouth with his elbow,” Bottoms said. "And I didn't even get a foul shot for it. I thought it knocked a tooth or two loose at first, but I'm OK."
Apparently so. Because the injury produced blood, the 6-3 senior had to leave the game for a brief spell.
Claremore held a 27-24 lead at halftime with Andrew Rounds, Brent Wilson and Bottoms sharing the offensive load. Greg Sanders' ball-handling was instrumental in getting the ball to his teammates.
Rounds started the third quarter with a three-pointer to double Claremore's lead. He also scored his team's final basket in the period. These were the only Zebra points. Between Rounds' shots, Coweta scored 12 to build a 36-32 lead.
With his own bleeding stopped, Bottoms returned at the start of the final period. It was now time for the visitors to bleed.
Two more Bottoms free throws and a basket by Wilson tied the score at 36 at 6:18. In a span of six seconds, foul shots by Bottoms tied the score again and then gave the Zebras a 40-38 lead.
At 4:55, Rounds followed suit with two more bonus points and Claremore was ahead by six.
Coweta, fresh from winning last week's Inola tournament, pulled to within 46-44 as speedster Bret Duravent stole the ball and raced in for an uncontested layup.
A beautiful Wilson assist to Bottoms the next time down the court upped the lead by four once again. It was the start of an 8-2 Claremore run.
"We were able to hit our free throws tonight (19 of 25) and we had 10 assists and that's what helped us to win," coach Lance Bennett said. "We had too many unforced turnovers and we need to improve that. Overall, this was a good win."
Improving to 3-2, and 2-0 in conference play, Claremore received 14 points from Rounds and 13 from Wilson.
Coweta is 3-2 and 0-2.
Maybe in time, Lady Zebra coach Mark Campbell will be able to point his team back to Tuesday's contest and gather something good from it.
For now, however, it hurts.
It had to happen sometime. The last time the Claremore girls lost a Six Lakes Conference game at home was Feb. 9, 2001. Catoosa came to town that night and spoiled an undefeated season for the Lady Zebras. Claremore had won 21 straight that year before the Catoosa game.
On paper, the Lady Tigers didn't appear to be much of a threat before Tuesday. All five starters on last year's 15-11 team graduated. It was rebuilding time.
It didn't take long.
The score was tied five times and the lead changed hands on eight occasions before the visitors went on top for good with 1:25 to play. A Jenni Bryar basket broke a 39-39 tie.
Seconds later, Claremore had a chance to tie again, but Hayley KnifeChief's second free throw rolled off the rim.
Coweta followed with the game's final four points for the upset.
It was nip-and-tuck from start to end. No more than five points ever seprated the two teams. A three-point KnifeChief bomb to start the second quarter pushed Claremore to a 17-12 edge. The final score was Coweta's biggest lead of the night.
Coweta’s Amy Summer led all players with 17 points. Brittani Smith, an inside force at 6-1, finished with 14.
Only three Lady Zebras found the net. Audra Skimbo had 14 points as KnifeChief and Logan Froese each followed with 13.
After two conference outings, Claremore is 1-1.
CLAREMORE 55, COWETA 48
Coweta 15 9 12 12 — 48
Claremore 7 20 5 23 — 55
Coweta — Graham 14, Dunavent 11, Wenaas 6, Marshall 6, Sipperly 5, Poplin 2.
Claremore — Bottoms 23, Rounds 14, Wilson 13, Grubb 5.
COWETA 45, CLAREMORE 40
Coweta 12 10 9 14 — 45
Claremore 14 7 12 7 — 40
Coweta — Summer 17, Smith 14, Bryar 7, Morgan 4, McCoy 3.
Claremore — Skimbo 14, KnifeChief 13, Logan Froese 13.