There’s no denying the ‘HEART’ of these Claremore Lady Zebras.
With their backs against the wall Thursday, these ‘diamond girls’ proved be the last team standing and hoisting a trophy after six exhilarating hours and three wins later.
“I’ve never seen a team want something as bad as they did today,” Claremore Lady Zebra head coach Jim Sherl said. “After we got those first two wins, you could tell this group of seniors and their teammates weren’t going to be denied in that final game.”
Pitch-for-pitch, Claremore seniors Kaylee Bart and Ally Johnson combined to gut it out in the circle.
Though their arms may have been showing fatigue after two straight games, it was obvious they weren’t going down without a fight.
After Claremore senior pitcher Stephanie Schivally kicked off the regional tournament with a perfect game, no-hitter in a 22-0 win over Tulsa Memorial, Bart and Ally Johnson answered the challenge Thursday with 63 outs of gut-wrenching pitching in the circle. It was a combined effort that held McAlester’s explosive offense to two runs in 14 innings.
“Anytime you can hold McAlester’s lineup to just two runs, that’s saying something for your pitching staff,” Sherl said. “McAlester’s a great club with a great pitcher (Selmon) that also is a great hitter. All around, she’s their best player and we handled her well.”
The performance by the Lady Zebras, especially in their 11-2 win over District 5A-4 rival Skiatook to open the day Thursday, set the tone for back-to-back victories over McAlester.
Sherl said his Lady Zebras set a goal at the beginning of the season to go out and not only host a regional tournament but also win a championship — something that hasn’t been done since 2008.
Mission accomplished by 8 p.m. Thursday night.
Claremore got behind 2-0 in Game 6 against McAlester but never caved in under the pressure.
A lead-off single by Schivally in the bottom of the fourth, followed by a one-out single by senior shortstop Sarah Brown, set the stage for Ally Johnson’s 2-run single to center field that tied the game at 2-2.
“Patience at the plate and the big hit by Ally (Johnson) gave a chance to do something big in Game 6,” Sherl added.
The Lady Zebras kept chipping away at McAlester’s Cheyenne Selmon and won the game in the bottom of the sixth with junior catcher Hailey Seago driving in the go-ahead run on a infield hit that caromed off the glove of the McAlester shortstop to make it 3-2. Claremore’s insurance run — Brown crossing home plate — came on freshman third baseman Erica Spencer’s deep sacrifice flyball to right-center field that sealed the 4-2 win.
“All season long, this team hasn’t backed away from pressure,” Sherl said. “We proved that in the district championship game against Tahlequah, and then again tonight in a game we needed in order to stay alive.”
Sherl added that his team gets fired up for the big games.
“We’re at our best when we’re facing tough-caliber teams,” Sherl said. “I think this team has a chance to do something special this week in the state tournament.
“To know that we’re one of eight teams remaining in Class 5A, that says something about the heart of this team.”
Seniors Bart, Johnson gut it out in the circle to lead Claremore to state tourney
There’s no denying the ‘HEART’ of these Claremore Lady Zebras.
'Twice as Nice'
When it comes to the 3A State Tournament and Oklahoma City, the Verdigris High School basketball teams are a household name.
Head coaches Randy Upshaw and Mike Buntin lead their programs back to the 'Capitol City' this week for a chance to hoist the coveted 3A state championship on Saturday night at the Big House.
Cards fly into 3A State Tournament
Verdigris junior guard Cade Upshaw lives for March Madness.
The 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter overcame a sluggish performance in a loss to Tahlequah Sequoyah to bounce back for a 20-point outing in the Cardinals’ 72-42 win over Antlers Saturday evening in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Vinita eliminates Inola
Vinita used an 18-point third quarter — highlighted by the sophomore leadership of Carsyn Spurgeon — and converted 21-of-34 free throws to notch a 61-55 win over the Inola Lady Longhorns Saturday night in the Class 4A Area Tournament.
‘Soaring to State’
In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Stilwell advances to State
A jam-packed, vocal crowd — aided by the control of several Claremore Police officers — witnessed Stilwell’s come-from-behind 57-51 win over Harrah Saturday night in the must-win game of the Class 4A Area Tournament at the Claremore High School Gymnasium.
SOFTBALL: Arkansas cruises past Miss. Valley State
The University of Arkansas softball team completed an undefeated run through the Razorback Invitational Sunday afternoon win with a 13-5 victory over Mississippi Valley State at Bogle Park.
AAC WOMEN'S BB TOURNEY: No. 1 UConn routs No. 3 Louisville for title
New league, same result. It's another championship for UConn.
Breanna Stewart scored 20 points and top-ranked Connecticut beat No. 3 Louisville 72-52 on Monday night to win the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament.
BIG 12 WOMEN'S BB TOURNEY: Sims leads Baylor to championship
Nothing was going to stop Odyssey Sims.
Not her early foul trouble, West Virginia's suffocating defense or the left ankle injury she suffered less than t wo minutes into the Big 12 championship game.
Sims, the Big 12 player of the year, bounced back and scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half to help No. 9 Baylor defeat No. 7 West Virginia 74-71 Monday night and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. It was Sims' fourth championship in four years.
BIG 12 WOMEN'S BB: Kansas State fires coach Deb Patterson
Kansas State has fired women's basketball coach Deb Patterson, announcing the move two days after an opening-round loss in the Big 12 tournament.
NCAA MEN'S BB: Florida, Wichita State stay 1-2 in AP poll
Florida, which finished an unbeaten season in the Southeastern Conference, and Wichita State, which completed an undefeated regular season, are the top two teams in the AP college basketball poll for the third straight week.
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