LARRY LARKIN

Progress Correspondent



SAPULPA — Claremore girls basketball coach Mark Campbell is a firm believer in the old saying, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."

Well, it wasn't, and he didn't.

As a result, his Lady Zebras are headed to the Class 5A state tournament once again.

Claremore rolled over Coweta, 55-29, in the area tournament championship game Thursday night in the Chieftain Center.

The victory, against a team that defeated them twice during the regular season, propels the Lady Zebras, 19-6, into next week’s state tournament.

Coweta, 14-9, will face Tulsa Kelley Saturday with the winner also advancing. Kelley eliminated Pryor, 60-44, Thursday.

Claremore's starting lineup — seniors Hayley KnifeChief, Lauren Froese and Erica Johnson, junior Audra Skimbo, and sophomore Logan Froese — never left the court during the first 3 1/2 quarters.

That was what the coach was talking about. With the way his starting quintet was playing, he wasn't about to mess with it.

"It was a great defense tonight. Everyone did a super job. The kids were all business and they came out to play. Coweta didn't know what hit them tonight," said a jubilant Campbell as he came out of the winning locker room.

"When Hayley hit that desperation three-pointer at the end of the first quarter, I knew then things were going our way."

Moments before, the coach leaped off the bench with an arm in the air as Skimbo crashed to the floor after taking a charging foul. It was a letter-perfect defensive stand and Campbell let his players know it.

For Skimbo, it was a physical game all the way. On both ends of the court, she and Coweta's freshman Jenni Bryan battled tooth and nail.

Skimbo had 16 points and Bryan had 12. Going against each other, they had to fight for every point.

"She is a great player and maybe we have near equal playing skills, but I feel I have more experience," Skimbo said, talking about her younger opponent.

Earlier in the week, the Claremore seniors each said they were looking forward to playing Coweta for a third time. The Tigers beat Claremore, 45-40 and 69-51, in the earlier meetings.

Except for a pair of three-point Amy Sommer baskets at the start, the Lady Tigers looked like they were being hit with a sledgehammer this time out.

Following each of Sommer's bombs KnifeChief answered with layups. Then, with 5:07 on the clock, Skimbo tied the score at 6 with her first goal. This started a 10-0 Zebra run.

Bryan finally slowed the rally at 1:52 with her first two points.

Logan Froese connected on a short jump shot and KnifeChief followed with her final-second blast. All doubt was cast aside. Claremore was rolling and there was little the Lady Tigers could do about it.

Clicking like a high-priced wall clock, Claremore played near-perfect basketball. The Zebras had only five miscues going into the final period.

The defense held Coweta to a season-low 29 points.

Falling more behind as the game continued, Coweta did not register back-to-back baskets until 1:40 of the second period.

This will be Claremore's 10th state tournament appearance in 12 years under Campbell. It is the school's 13th time since 1992.



CLAREMORE 55, COWETA 29

Girls

Coweta 7 8 9 5 — 29

Claremore 19 12 20 4 — 55

Coweta — Bryan 12, Sommer 6, May 5, Riley 3, Murphy 3.

Claremore — KnifeChief 19, Skimbo 16, Logan Froese 8, Johnson 7, Lauren Froese 3, Milone 1, Barnoski 1.



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