When it comes to shooting, the Claremore Lady Zebras would rather drain three pointers than free throws.
Claremore’s Monica Taylor converted four of her six treys in the second half for a game-high 18 points as the Lady Zebras held off Collinsville, 49-46 in the season opener Tuesday night at the Claremore High School Gym.
As a team, Claremore tallied nine treys opposed to 2-of-10 shooting at the free throw line.
Clinging to a 24-20 halftime lead, in which Claremore rode the offense of Taylor and Anna McGuire for 13 combined points, the Lady Zebras built a 30-23 lead in the third quarter on back-to-back treys from McGuire and Skylar Muncy.
Collinsville rallied with a trey from Sawyer Sallsbury and an offensive putback from Brittany Kickapoo to narrow the Claremore lead to 30-28 with 1:48 left in the third quarter.
One possession later, Collinsville’s Maddie Vaughn knocked down the baseline jumper to tie the game at 30-30.
Throughout the course of the third quarter, Claremore’s suffocating defense in the paint — highlighted by McGuire’s tenacity on Collinsville’s 6-foot-4 freshman post Mallory Vaughn — forced the Lady Cardinals out of their comfort zone.
Mallory Vaughn tallied eight of her 10 points in the first half.
McGuire’s ability to hold the towering Vaughn to two points in the final 16 minutes proved to be a huge factor in the game.
After Muncy’s driving layup on the give-and-go from senior point guard Kaleigh Cox that made it 32-30 for Claremore, Taylor’s ‘longest’ trey of the night increased the lead to 35-32 with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
Penetrating off a screen set by freshman forward Lauren Chancellor, Taylor took the pass from Cox and drilled the 33-foot trey for her third of the game.
After Mallory Vaughn’s layup trimmed the deficit to 35-34, Cox soared past the Collinsville defense for a buzzer-beating 10-foot baseline jumper that extended Claremore’s lead to 37-34 going into the fourth quarter.
Collinsville — led by former Claremore head coach Mark Campbell — took its largest lead of the game at 43-39 on a pair of treys from Caroline Sallee and Taylor O’Dell.
Taylor, though, answered O’Dell’s tri-fecta with a long-range bomb at the 4:21 mark that cut the margin to 43-42.
Another Taylor trey with 1:42 remaining put Claremore ahead at 45-43. But, on the ensuing possession, O’Dell swung the momentum back in favor of Collinsville with her third trey of the game to put the Lady Cardinals up 46-45.
In the closing minute, Claremore went to its hot hand and got the ‘Taylor-made’ finish. With 55 seconds left, Taylor drained her final three-pointer to secure Claremore’s victory.
Along with Taylor, McGuire finished with 12 points.