TAHLEQUAH — When shots finally started falling for the Lady Zebras, it was far too late.
Claremore failed to upset the fifth-ranked Lady Tigers for the second time in 15 days despite outscoring them 20-11 in the fourth quarter, dropping a 46-34 decision in the Class 5A East Regional 4 championship at the Tahlequah Multipurpose Activity Center on Saturday afternoon.
The loss sends the Lady Zebras (13-12) to the area consolation bracket, where they will face Edison at 8 p.m. Thursday in Catoosa. The winner of that game will play again at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Jenks against the loser of Will Rogers and Coweta for a berth in the state tournament.
Claremore is 0-2 against the Lady Eagles this season, falling 55-42 and 39-37 on Dec. 13 and Jan. 23, respectively.
“Right now, we have to have a short memory and just get ready for next week,” Lady Zebras coach Mike Hughes said. “All we have to do now is win two games in-a-row.”
Despite suffering through some major shooting woes and scoring only one point in the second quarter, Claremore trailed 16-7 at halftime.
Tahlequah (19-7) found a cure for its anemic offense first, though, and that was the deciding factor.
The second half became a who’s who of 3-point shooters for the Lady Tigers, with four players hitting a combined eight shots—including five in the third period—from beyond the arc.
Kacey Fishinghawk, who finished with 13 points and 3 rebounds, led the way with three 3-balls while Kynli Heist (11 points, 3 rebounds) and Faith Springwater (9 points, 5 rebounds) knocked down two apiece.
Lydia McAlvain hit only one to finish with 3 points, but she also co-led Tahlequah on the boards alongside Kloe Brown (8 points) with 6 rebounds.
Heist managed the Lady Tigers’ lone long-distance shot of the first half.
Tahlequah used that hot shooting to balloon its lead to as many as 23 points at 37-14 early in the final frame.
However, the Lady Zebras closed the game with a 20-9 run thanks to the sudden ignition of senior Hailey Grant and sophomore Kylee Ohman.
The pair combined for all 20 of those fourth-quarter points, including four 3-pointers.
“We knew they could shoot it, and we kind of got lost and tried to change some things up because we weren’t playing well offensively,” Hughes said. “We thought if we changed some things, it’ll maybe get us going offensively. Late in the fourth, we found some new life and energy, but it was too little too late.”
Grant scored 16 points in the second half—including 12 in the fourth quarter—to finish with a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Ohman notched 14 points with 3 rebounds. If not for her two 3-balls in the first period, one of which came at the buzzer, Claremore would’ve gone scoreless instead of trailing 7-6.
All four of her field goals were tallied from beyond the arc.
Although the scoring spree came later than desired, Hughes said the confidence gained from it will carry over into this week as the girls prepare for Thursday’s must-win contest against Edison (15-9).
The Lady Zebras’ 34 points were the fewest they’ve scored since a 71-18 loss to Grove on Jan. 22.
“You don’t want to feel deflated when you go into next week, and we just had a really bad day of shooting,” Hughes said. “We just could not make a shot. I think it was probably the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter when we finally got going. And we had to take some bad shots to get going.
“They never quit; we just ran into the deadly ‘we didn’t shoot it well’ day.”