PRYOR – If only Abbey Cox had received some early scoring help. If only Claremore hadn’t committed so many turnovers. If only the first quarter wasn’t so lackluster for the Lady Zebras. Maybe Pryor would not have won 49-38 and secured the Class 5A-4 regional championship Saturday at Burdick Center.
Claremore was left to consider what might have been after a couple of key scoring spurts by the Lady Tigers overshadowed a banner offensive effort by Cox. A 5-foot-6 senior guard, Cox came ready to play, compiling 23 points, scoring 7-of-8 of the Zebras’ first-period points and 13-of-16 in the first half.
Cox fired home back-to-back buckets, giving CHS a 4-0 lead in first 1:27. Fourth-ranked Pryor (18-7) followed with a tsunami of points, building a 12-4 lead. Down 15-8 in the final seconds of the initial quarter, the Tigers reeled nine consecutive points, mounting a 24-8 spread early in the second frame.
It was rally time for coach Whitney Jones and her team the rest of the way.
The No. 15 Lady Z’s did not shoot that badly in the opening period (3-of-8), but managed fewer shots against the home teams’ backcourt press and tight man-to-man. Claremore finished with 21 turnovers, including eight in the deciding first eight minutes.
Junior Hailey Grant warmed up in the second half and racked up 10 points with nine rebounds. Only two other Lady Zebras scored, Sophie Stout with three points and Chloe Dennis with two. Meanwhile, scoring balance and a plethora of free throws powered Pryor.
Rylie Looney, a 6-1 junior, scored 14 points for the Tigers with senior Kenzie Silkey getting 12 and Hollie Wood 11. Pryor also converted 18-of-27 foul shots compared to 12-of-14 for the Zebras. With the game still in doubt in the final period, the home hit 9-of-15 at the line and CHS 4-of-5.
Claremore (11-14) pulled within 26-16 in the second quarter following two free throws by Grant. Twice the Z’s trimmed their deficit to nine in the third period, then trailed 42-27 after Cox picked up her fourth foul with 4:28 remaining.
One last push got Claremore back within 45-36 on a trey by Cox at 2:40 before three free throws gave the Tigers a 48-36 edge with 50 seconds left.
The Lady Zebras play Collinsville in the area tournament on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Skiatook.