STILLWATER — Defense carried the Claremore Lady Eagles all season.
It carried them a little farther Thursday night.
The Lady Eagles moved on to the second level of the three-tier Class 4A area tournament with a 32-29 victory over Blackwell in the Stillwater High School gym.
At 1:30 this afternoon, the Lady Eagles will test Glenpool, a 53-30 winner over Jay earlier Thursday, to see who can advance to the finals on Saturday.
Just when it appeared the Lady Maroons might have solved Sequoyah’s ferocious man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles turned up the intensity to yet a higher level.
They held Blackwell without a field goal over the final four minutes.
In the city where Henry Iba created a enduring legacy of defensive basketball, Sequoyah coach Russell Morgan put on a gee-whiz clinic of his own Thursday night.
The Lady Eagles swarmed the Maroons at every turn, at every pass, at every breath.
Sequoyah had limited opponents to an average of 32 points per start this season.
The Lady Eagles were even better than that Thursday night.
As the game went deeper, the Lady Eagles’ defense became stiffer. They forced Blackwell into 12 of its 20 turnovers in the second half.
For three quarters, the pace was so deliberate, so dictated by Sequoyah’s defense, that neither team could muster more than eight points per period.
With Sequoyah leading, 23-19, entering the final quarter, Blackwell found a seam and put up back-to-back 3-pointers within 30 seconds and finally pulled even at 27 with 4:44 to go.
The Maroons were not going to do any more damage to Mogan’s proud defensive unit.
Stevey Conger regained the lead for Sequoyah with a basket at 4:05, and following another Blackwell turnover, Johnna Weast scored at 3:44 to a 31-27 advantage.
Sequoyah never gave the Maroons any hope after that.
The Maroons were forced to use valuable time looking for a shot against the Sequoyah defense.
Then, with the luxury of fouls to give, they fouled Sequoyah on three consecutive possessions, but never regained the basketball.
When Blackwell managed a shot, it was defended. And, it was missed.
Two free throws with 34 seconds remaining were the extent of Blackwell’s stretch-drive pointmaking. Blackwell pulled with 31-29, but then committed yet another turnover and missed a couple of shots.
Conger and Weast supplied the fourth-quarter offense, and all five Lady Eagles on the floor contributed to the defense.
Weast scored six of her 12 points in the fourth period, hitting a trey and a two. Conger added the other three points and finished with 10.
Blackwell’s 5-5 Brittany Ray hit four treys in six attempts and finished with 14 points.
By numbers, Blackwell outrebounded the Lady Eagles, 26-11. But they could not convert all their second chances, hitting only 10 of 32 field goals.
Sequoyah could make only two of six free throws in the final period, adding more pressure to its defensive workload.
In the middle, Sequoyah’s 6-0 junior Megan Fuller and Blackwell’s 5-11 jun ior Kaitlyn Wooderson pretty much negated each other. They managed four points each, and Wooderson had an 8-5 rebounding edge.
Sequoyah increased its record to 18-8, while Blackwell finished its year at 14-13.
SEQUOYAH 32, BLACKWELL 29
Clare Sequoyah 8 7 8 9 — 32
Blackwell 6 8 5 10 — 29
Claremore Sequoyah — Weast 12, Conger 10, Fuller 4, Goad 4, Morris 2, May 0, Harrison 0.
Blackwell — Ray 14, Wyckoff 7, Wooderson 4, Huang 4, Blundell 0.