Claremore Zebras

SKIATOOK – With a more balanced scoring attack and adequate defensive pressure, the Claremore Lady Zebras moved within a step of qualifying for the Class 5A state tournament Thursday night at Brooks Walton Activity Center.

 Hilary Grant and Sophie Stout each poured in 13 points while Abbey Cox added 11 as the female Z’s turned back frustrated Collinsville 41-25 in the 5A east area tournament. A victory over Coweta in Saturday’s 1:30 game at Owasso will allow CHS to reach state tourney play next week.

 No. 15 Claremore (12-14) forced 18 Lady Cardinal turnovers and shutdown all but 5-foot-6 senior Bryn Willet. Willet scored 17 points, making all but one of her team’s six field goals. Meanwhile, Claremore hit 6-of-11 three-point attempts and put the game away by converting 5-of-7 shots overall in the fourth quarter.

 “I thought we had a really good fourth quarter,’’ said head coach Whitney Jones, whose team outscored Collinsville 20-8. “We did our jobs in quarters one, two and three and finished it in the fourth. I thought defense was a key because this arena is a hard place to shoot in.’’

 CHS entered the final period ahead 21-17 before Willet executed a spinning move underneath to trim the Zebras’ lead to two. Cox answered with consecutive treys and suddenly Claremore’s offense was in gear.

 A 14-0 run, capped by two foul shots from Cox, gave the Zebras a 35-19 bulge with 3:13 remaining. The gap reached 40-20 when Stout laced a pair at the line with 1:13 to go. Now CHS has to worry about Coweta, who won twice in the regular season. The Lady Tigers blew a 15-point lead and lost 52-43 to Tulsa Rogers in the other opening round game.

 “It will be a grind,’’ Jones said. “We’ve got to slow them down a little bit and get fouls on some of their guards early. But we moved on tonight and that was our goal coming in.’’

 The Zebras never trailed and held Collinsville scoreless for periods of 7:48 and 6:02 in the first half. The Cards did come within 10-9 on a three ball from Willet, but nine straight points kept Jones’ team in front until the scare early in the final frame.