The fun-and-games time is over. Now it’s time to get serious. Oh, the games will continue, all right, but now they take on a more important aspect.

Fresh from winning the Catoosa Port City Classic last weekend, the Claremore Lady Zebras basketball team start the final third of their season. Eight regular-season games remain before starting their customary trip to the state finals.

Landing one of the eight spots in the state tournament has become almost a tradition. Claremore's girls have been there each of the past six years and 14 of the last 17. The Lady Zebras won the state championships in 2003-04-05.

Ranked No. 2 in Class 5A with a 13-1 record, the Lady Zebras should be well rested as they prepare to travel to Skiatook for a Metro Lakes Conference contest Friday night.

This week's icy weather had no effect on the Zebras schedule. Claremore was idle Tuesday while almost every other school was forced to cancel or postpone games.

Coach Mark Campbell's Lady Zebras are 6-0 in conference play, having already defeated Skiatook, Bixby, Coweta, Tulsa Kelley, Tahlequah and Catoosa. Non-conference foes Owasso and Pryor have also fallen to the Zebras.

The second half of the conference schedule starts with the Skiatook trip.

Talking about the remainder of the regular slate, Campbell made it clear that his girls still have a job in front of them.

"We are just out of sync," he said. "It is nothing major. Still, it is some little things we need to polish. At Catoosa in one game, our passes caused way too many turnovers. The next night, we were rushing our 3-point shots when there was no need. These are correctable mistakes.

"These are things we will spend time on. We know what our weaknesses are. On offense, our guards need to penetrate more and make better passes.

Our 3-point shooting is off some. We have three or four girls who can hit them each night.

"Another thing is getting the ball inside to Logan (Froese). We saw what happens when we did it in the championship game. She hit 11 of 12 shots."

Neither is Campbell completely happy with the team's defense.

"We need to continue to work on the defensive end," he said. "We have some times when our defense is not solid and consistent as it needs to be."

Prior to the three-day Catoosa tournament, senior starting guard Claire Detter injured an ankle. Following medical advice, Campbell did not allow her to suit out for the tournament.

"Having Claire out hurt because we didn't have the added depth we normally have," he said.

Cassidy Bowen started all three games at forward, but appeared at times to be slowed by a sore foot.

Picking up the slack were impressive performances by Taylor Swift (replacing Detter) along with Sierra Barnwell and Leslie Post.

Leading all players with 70 points, Froese was selected as the most valuable player. She was pushed hard for the honor by her sophomore teammate Jordan Schultz. She racked up 66 points and named to the all-tournament five-player team.

"There are nights Jordan doesn't seem to get untracked until the second or third quarter," Campbell said. "But she does such a good job overall I sometimes forget she is just a sophomore."

Asked if his team is where he expected it to be at this time, Campbell said, "I honestly felt we would be undefeated now, and we should be."

He then said, "Right now, our current schedule is not as strong as it needs to be."

Claremore's lone defeat came as Ozark, Mo., knocked off the Zebras, 44-37, at the Union tournament in December.

"We beat ourselves in that game,” he said. “We missed our first eight shots and were down, 18-0, before we scored. We fought back and pulled to within three before the defense let them score a layup uncontested. We had way too many turnovers to win."

That setback has left a bitter taste for the coach and his players. Since then, the Lady Zebras have rattled off 10 straight victories.

Now it’s time to get serious.

Claremore’s Taylor Shisler, right, knows where the goal is, and he knows what

the Zebras’ season goal is, as well.

The junior guard has helped the Zebras

win four of their last five starts and

raise their record to 7-7. They play

at Skiatook Friday night.

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