TULSA – The Claremore Lady Zebras fell to the Class 5A No. 17 Tulsa Memorial Lady Chargers in a 24-23 nail-biter Friday night at Memorial Veterans Arena.
Claremore (1-4) isn't scheduled to return to the court until 2021 at Highway 20 neighbor Collinsville on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The next home game for the Zebras is scheduled for the following Tuesday against Coweta. Claremore was supposed to play at Skiatook this past Tuesday, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 issues facing the Bulldogs.
"COVID has been tough," Claremore coach Mike Hughes said. "We have not had one practice this year, or at least the three months, when we had everyone there."
Ella Claborn and Grace Bump both came close to registering double-doubles for the Lady Zebras. Claborn had a game-high nine points and nine rebounds while Bump scored eight points and grabbed a game-high 11 boards.
Points were hard to find for both teams. Claborn made two free throws to put Claremore up 20-19 with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter. She then split a pair at the line 45 seconds later.
Nakya Blakley put the Chargers (3-1) ahead 22-21 on a 3-pointer with three minutes remaining. She then made 1-of-2 free throws with 1:54 left.
Memorial did a good job of handling ball possession after that, forcing Claremore to commit several fouls before finally getting to a 1-and-1 from Makayla Blakley with 32.4 seconds to play.
Blakley made the first shot and missed the second, but the Lady Zebras turned the ball over with 15 seconds remaining.
Bump, however, got a steal and bucket, and Claremore called timeout with 11 .7 seconds left. The Lady Chargers responded by missing the front end of a 1-and-1 with 4.9 seconds remaining.
Claremore, however, had another turnover with .6 seconds to go. Memorial was able to get the ball inbounds and run off those final fractions.
"We played well enough defensively to win," Hughes said. "We are just struggling to take advantage of scoring opportunities when we have them."
The Lady Zebras held a slim 5-4 lead after the first period. They didn't score until a 3-pointer from Rachel Yewell with 2:10 left in the frame.
Claremore extended its advantage to 13-8 at the half. Yewell got her other points of the game, also from long distance, in the final 10 seconds of the half to provide that margin.
The Lady Chargers were up 19-18 after three quarters. They got that slim lead on a 3-pointer from Destiny Smith in the final minute of the frame.
Prior to that make from Smith, Memorial had missed its first 14 tries from beyond the arc. That set the stage for the drama of the final stanza.
Even with the disappointment of the close loss, Hughes was grateful for his group to get back on the court.
"The most important thing is the kids are getting the opportunity to compete, and for now, I am happy with that to say the least," Hughes said.