Claremore boys basketball headed across the border into Arkansas this week to compete in the Gravette Christmas Classic.
The Zebras represented Oklahoma well, claiming third place with a 2-1 record in the tournament. They defeated Elkins for that distinction after falling to host Gravette in the semifinals and beating Dover in the first round.
Claremore (5-4) returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Tahlequah at 7:30 p.m.
Here is a recap of the Zebras’ journey to the Natural State:
Third-Place | Claremore 50, Elkins 48: Both teams struggled in the fourth quarter, combining for only seven points, but the Zebras’ balanced attack through the first three periods was enough to clinch the victory.
Led by Tanner Steidley and Keith Watson, the Zebras averaged just over 15 points per quarter through the first 24 minutes. Steidley finished with a team-high 12 points while Watson added 10 points.
Steidley did most of his work in the first quarter, helping Claremore build a 17-10 lead. Watson then took over in the second, tallying six of the team’s 14 points during that frame.
Rex Clark and Parker Hardage came close to scoring in double figures as well, finishing with nine and eight points, respectively. Clark scored the only field goal of the fourth for the Zebras with a 3-pointer, whereas Hardage managed all of his points — including two 3-balls — in the first.
Aiden Underdown led Elkins with 20 points, 18 of which came in the first half.
Semifinals | Gravette 45, Claremore 44 (OT): After leading by as many as 14 while outscoring Gravette 10-2 in the third, Claremore looked primed to advance to its second-consecutive tournament championship.
The Lions had other plans, though.
Paced by eight fourth-quarter points from Gunnar Woolard, Gravette rallied to force overtime. From there, the Lions shot 4-of-4 from the free-throw line, and a field goal from Brooks West helped complete the comeback.
The Zebras had field goals from Watson and Cade Chancellor in overtime, but a 1-of-4 shooting performance at the line held them back.
Watson was Claremore’s lone double-digit scorer, leading the team with a game-high 20 points. Kort Seidel came close with his three 3-pointers, finishing with nine points.
Woolard led Gravette with 11 points.
Quarterfinals | Claremore 59, Dover 42: Watson averaged 16.3 points per game through the tournament, and he opened that three-game stretch in emphatic fashion.
The senior recorded 19 points in the first-round victory over Dover, never scoring less than four points in a quarter. He had 11 points at halftime, guiding the Zebras to a 32-19 advantage.
Claremore outscored Dover 16-5 in the first period behind four 3-pointers, and Steidley — who went on to register 10 points — was responsible for two of them. Watson and Clark managed the other pair.
Michael McHugh was impactful as well, especially in the second quarter. All of his eight points came during that eight-minute stretch, helping the Zebras match their first-quarter offensive production.
Landen Parker and Lane Standridge led Dover with 10 points apiece.