Just a freshman, Claremore forward Bailey Steckline came off the bench and performed like a seasoned veteran during the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s Metro Lakes Conference showdown with No. 5 Tahlequah.
Steckline scored a team-high 11 points to lead Class 5A No. 19 Claremore past Tahlequah, 48-46 at the Claremore High School Gym.
The win improved Claremore to 6-5 overall and 5-1 in conference. Tahlequah dropped to 7-6 overall and 4-2 in conference.
“Oh, my gosh, I thought Bailey was huge for us in the fourth quarter. She never panicked and when she had an open look, she knocked it down,” Claremore head coach Stephanie Shaw said. “That’s huge for a freshman to step up when the team needed her. She stepped up offensively and defensively with some huge rebounds.”
Steckline entered the fourth quarter with 7:26 left after Claremore starter Ashlyn Glenn picked up her fifth personal foul. In the fourth quarter alone, Steckline scored seven of the Lady Zebras’ nine points.
Back-to-back baseline jumpers by Steckline put Claremore ahead 43-37 with 3:56 remaining in the game.
Tahlequah rallied from a 4-point deficit, 47-43, to a 1-point game at 47-46 on a three-pointer by Alissa Hadley with 1:03 left.
Steckline, however, drained 1-of-2 free throws on the ensuing possession to put Claremore up 48-46 with 47 seconds.
“Give Tahlequah credit, they are very well coached and they never panicked and hit some big 3’s at the end,” Shaw said. “If we can start putting together second halves with our first halves, we could be pretty dangerous. But, we have a lot of things we still need to work on.”
Claremore carried a 34-17 lead into halftime after an explosive effort from the perimeter, led by a pair of treys from Alex Crews. Claremore drained four three-pointers in the first 16 minutes, and also applied a suffocating press defense on Tahlequah.
“In the first half, I thought we played hard on defense and that showed in holding them to 17 points,” Shaw said. “But, in the second half, we let off the gas and didn’t play very hard defensively.”
Claremore junior point guard Kaleigh Cox tallied seven points and had several timely steals in the second half that were critical to the Lady Zebras’ success down the stretch.
Glenn also recorded nine points before fouling out, and was helped on the offensive end by Anna McGuire and Crews with six points each.
Monica Taylor knocked down a first-half three pointer, and contributed with four assists; while Morgan Johnson, Tristin Reynolds and Cherokee Gott chipped in two points each.
“The great thing about this team is on any given night, someone new has stepped up when we needed it,” Shaw said.
Jhonett Cookson led Tahlequah with a double-double performance with 10 points, 13 rebounds and two assists.
The Lady Zebras continue their quest toward a Metro Lakes Conference championship at 6:30 p.m. on Friday against Coweta at the Claremore HS Gym.