Jace Schaffitzel is known for leading by example, and Tuesday night was a perfect case in point.
The 6-foot-0 senior added to his leadership repertoire, scoring 8 of his 10 points in the fourth quarter to help the Zebras hold off Coweta 56-51 in the Claremore Gymnasium.
Zebras coach Tommy Nolan said Schaffitzel’s role mainly involves responsibilities that don’t show up on the box score, so it was rewarding to see him take advantage of rare scoring opportunities.
“We don’t ask him to do much scoring; he’s never had the role, but he goes for loose balls and takes charges,” Nolan said. “He was attacking the rim real well and opened up some shots for himself late and knocked them down.
“You could tell from the excitement of everyone that he’s a great young man, a great, great kid and we’re just very happy for him.”
After Coweta’s 6-5 bigman Chandler Wheeler trimmed the Claremore lead to 43-41, Schaffitzel answered with two-straight 3-pointers.
He then dished out an assist to junior Caison Hartloff before capping the 10-0 run with a layup.
“Just play basketball,” Schaffitzel said of his mindset late in the game. “I felt confident with the ball, and good things happened.”
Shortly after, junior Nate Potts, the hero of the first meeting with the Tigers, threw down an emphatic dunk to put an exclamation mark on Claremore’s first win since defeating Coweta on Jan. 14.
Hartloff led Claremore with 20 points and 8 rebounds, and though the 6-3 shooting guard is responsible for a bulk of the scoring duties, Schaffitzel said it felt great to relieve him of some of that pressure down the stretch.
Three other Zebras—Potts (7 points), Noah Smallwood (6 points) and Drake Roark (6 points)—contributed handsomely as well.
“All of our guys are great basketball players, and we can all score,” Schaffitzel said. “It was just my night, I guess. I shot well and played like I knew I could.
“I’m glad we got that win because we needed it.”
The Tigers (11-10), led by Tyler Arreola, made one final push with an 8-1 run after Potts’ dunk, but it came too late.
Arreola tallied a game-high 23 points to go along with 5 rebounds, scoring 16 in the second half.
Hayden Brewster finished with 9 points and a board while Wheeler recorded 7 points and 5 rebounds.
The victory ended an eight-game losing streak for Claremore (5-13), but Nolan said his team operates with a short memory.
“We try not to remember (the losing streak),” Nolan said. “Any time you can win it feels good, but more importantly, it’s good just seeing the guys keep competing. When you deal with high school kids, sometimes it’s tough to keep them motivated, but they come to work every day through the wins and the losses.”
GIRLS | COWETA 51, CLAREMORE 46: For the Lady Zebras, it was all about turnovers and not taking advantage of opportunities.
Claremore committed 12 turnovers to Coweta’s six, and despite forcing four of those in the fourth quarter, coach Mike Hughes’ squad just couldn’t close the gap.
The Lady Tigers had no turnovers until late in the third period.
“We had some mental breakdowns in the game plan and what we were wanting to do and what we wanted to take away,” Hughes said. “Then we had some very inopportune turnovers that, I think, were the difference in the game.”
Coweta (12-9) jumped out to a 6-0 lead early on, but the Lady Zebras, led by senior Hailey Grant, managed to tie things at 12 on a Maddie Hardage basket in the opening moments of the second frame.
However, Grant soon picked up her third foul, allowing the Lady Tigers to create some separation with a 21-10 run
Grant was fairly limited the remainder of the game, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds despite scoring 10 points in the first quarter and snagging 7 first-half rebounds.
Hardage nearly recorded a double-double as well with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Claremore (10-10) won the second half by a count of 24-20, but Coweta’s second-quarter run was too much to overcome.
Linda Brice, who led the Lady Tigers with 22 points and 6 rebounds, scored 11 of her points during that stretch. Madison Wheat was close behind with 8 points in that frame and 16 overall.
Trying to recreate the magic of Friday’s rally against Collinsville, Grant led the Lady Zebras on a late 12-6 run that brought them within five twice, but five-straight points from Alexxia Mercer—including a 3-pointer—ensured a Coweta victory.
Mercer tallied a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“I knew we’d have to make some shots, and we didn’t shoot the ball well today,” Hughes said of the late rally. “But there’s always a chance when you get opportunities, it’s just a matter of taking advantage of them.”
Both Claremore teams return to the court Friday at Tahlequah, beginning with the girls game at 6 p.m.