Sports Sunday Correspondent
OOLOGAH — Dock Melton doesn’t remember the last time Oologah entered the basketball playoffs sitting atop its conference, but he will have certainly engraved himself into some memories if the Mustangs do it again.
The senior sharpshooter registered all but two of his team’s fourth-quarter strikes, draining five-of-six from 3-point territory, as Oologah used an impressive late run to turn back Mannford, 53-46, and take sole lead of the Tulsa Seven Conference on Friday night.
With only games against Glenpool and Bristow remaining before the Mustangs enter the district tournament at Cascia Hall this week, finishing with wins would mean their first outright conference title since 1993.
“We knew we had to win this one,” Oologah coach Ron Ward said. “We were very fortunate Dock got hot at the end.”
The Lady Mustangs needed a similar push to offset their early shooting woes. Downing only 14 percent (4 of 29) from the floor before halftime, they rebounded for 47 percent (8 of 17) in the second half to take a 43-35 win over the Lady Pirates at Mustang Fieldhouse.
As Oologah stares at the possibility of finishing the regular season alone at the top for the first time in 15 years, Melton calls the occasion “normal.”
“When it comes down to this late in the season, we seem to always beat Mannford,” he said.
In the latest installment of that series, he makes no denial of his role. He tallied 17 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter as his blistering shooting touch stole the show.
Still, he credits it all to his teammates.
“They sparked me,” he said.
The Mustangs, who led for most of the night, took a slim lead into the fourth quarter before Mannford tied it at 32.
That was Melton’s cue. He hit his first trey — an almost NBA-distance bomb from the top of the key — 30 seconds into the period.
“He was in the zone,” Ward said. “When he gets focused and in the zone, he’ll even shoot with people on top of him. It won’t bother him.”
Oologah went 8-for-11 in the fourth as a string of treys by Melton directed a 12-2 run and pushed the lead to double figures for the first time.
The Pirates managed some outside shooting of their own, using a pair of treys by Tuffy Turner and Michael Butler to pull within three, but couldn’t dodge the offensive — or defensive — prowess of Melton.
A pass from Turner was picked off at mid-court by Metlon, who drove it back for a score to effectively extinguish Mannford’s comeback hopes as time passed below the two-minutes mark.
The Pirates struggled behind a stifling Oologah defense that allowed just 36 percent (16 of 45) from the floor and 8-of-27 from beyond the arc.
Oologah hit 50 percent of its shots (23 of 46) and 6 of 18 treys, all from Melton, who mader 6- of 12 from beyond the arc.
The Mustangs (11-7, 7-1 Tulsa Seven) entered the game tied with Glenpool (13-9, 7-2) in the conference. The Pirates were ranked No. 17 in Class 4A by Okrankings.com.
Oologah has just one matchup on tap before at Cascia Hall on Saturday: A Tuesday meeting with Bristow. A makeup contest with Glenpool was played Saturday.
It was ugly, but it was a win.
The Lady Mustangs managed just 12 points in the first half, with nine coming in the first period, as they hit only 2-of-14 from 3-point territory.
The good news?
They trailed by three going into halftime.
Mannford put together its own version of an ugly first half, hitting 2-of-12 treys and 6-of-21 overall.
Then, a little spring returned to the collective step of the Mustangs. They attempted only four shots from beyond the arc in the second half, turning instead to the basics of easy inside looks.
It worked. Not only did they score — they got fouled, hitting 14 of 20 free throws.
Oologah attempted only two free throws in the first half.
Cassidee Young hit 3-of-6 from the floor as she racked up 14 points, mostly in the second half, leading the Mustangs to win No. 13 through 19 games. Oologah is ranked No. 20 in 4A.
Mannford is 14-6.
OOLOGAH 53, MANNFORD 46
Mannford 7 11 12 16 — 46
Oologah 11 14 7 21 — 53
Mannford — Turner 13, Butler 9, Croney 8, Rogers 6, Jones 4, Hycock 4, Replogle 2.
Oologah — Melton 24, Barrett 14, Keith 5, Troutt 4, Walters 4.
OOLOGAH 43, MANNFORD 35
Mannford 7 8 8 12 — 35
Oologah 9 3 13 18 — 43
Mannford — Brunwell 8, Saliba 8, Jones 6, Upshaw 5, Burden 5, Rogers 3.
Oologah — Young 14, Linihan 9, Jeffs 9, Hotfelt 9, Dillman 2.