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Bixby Girls Excited For Tournament Of Champions

By Ron Holt

Nothing came easy for either team when Bixby’s Lady Spartans hosted Union in a Frontier Valley Conference game last Tuesday night (Dec. 14) in Whitey Ford Field House.

Both defenses were tenacious, and points were scarce before two free throws by Union’s MacKenzie Malham with 34 seconds remaining sealed the Redhawks hard-earned 29-25 victory. Bixby fell to 3-2 while Union improved to 4-0.

Third-ranked Bixby led 4-0 early and used a jumper by Gentry Baldwin and three-pointer by Gracy Wernli to lead 9-7 before fifth-ranked Union scored the final seven points of the first quarter for a 14-9 lead.

Bixby scored nine second quarter points – a three-pointer by Wernli, four points on drives by Baldwin and a jumper by Alyssa Nielsen – to hold on for an 18-16 first half lead.

The Lad Spartans offense was blanked in the third quarter thanks to stout Redhawk defense and Union holding the ball late in the period while carrying a 21-18 lead into the final quarter.

Five points from forward Meredith Mayes kept Bixby in contention late with a drive by Baldwin narrowing Union’s lead to 27-25 before Malham sank the two crucial free throws at the end.

“I thought we played excellent defense to hold that team to 29 points,” Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas said. “The girls did everything I asked them to do defensively. Their defense is physical and we’re still trying to find our groove. There is just no flow on offense right now.”

Mayes, who finished with seven points added, “They are a phenomenal team. They are very athletic, and they push us when we are on offense. I just don’t think we’re in a groove yet … we’re playing good defense we just don’t have any synergy on offense.”

Baldwin and Wernli led Bixby in scoring with eight points each while Mayes contributed seven and Nielsen two. TK Pitts topped Union with a game-high 13 points.

Bixby will take a break before attempting to snap a two-game losing streak in the annual Girls Tournament of Champion set Dec. 27-29 at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa.

“We played in the tournament in 2018 with Maddie Bittle’s group. It’s a good honor, hopefully we’ll come together before then,” coach Thomas said.

The Class 6A Bixby Spartans play Class A Seiling in the opening game of the prestigious tournament at noon Monday, Dec. 27.

“I’m so excited we’ve been looking forward to the tournament since we found out last year,” Mayes noted. “We were sent the schedule the other day and it was exciting. That will be a really good time and hopefully we’ll get into a flow on offense.”

NOTABLES – Bixby played Union without junior guard Kassidy Blankenship, who was ill. …In other TOC quarterfinal games Dec. 27, Class 6A Norman (4-1) meets Class 2A Howe (7-2) at 9 a.m., Class 4A Classesn SAS (7-0) plays Class 3A’s Lincoln Christian (7-0) at 4 p.m. and Class 6A Tahlequah (6-0) plays Class 4A Holland Hall (5-0) at 7 p.m. ….  Bixby junior guard Wernli returned to action after being sidelined by an injury in the Bixby Tournament finals against Class 6A’s No. 1 Edmond North.  

Girls Tournament of Champions

MONDAY (Dec. 27)

9 a.m. – Norman (6A) vs. Howe (2A)

Noon – Bixby (6A) vs. Seiling (A)

4 p.m. – Classen SAS (4A) vs. Lincoln Christian (3A)

7 p.m. – Tahlequah (6A) vs. Holland Hall (4A)

TUESDAY (Dec. 28)

9 a.m.  – Bixby-Seiling loser vs. Tahlequah-Holland Hall loser

Noon – Norman-Howe loser vs. Classen SAS-Lincoln Christian loser

4 p.m. – Norman-Howe winner vs. Classen SAS-Lincoln Christian winner

7 p.m. – Bixby-Seiling winner vs. Tahlequah-Holland Hall winner

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 29

9 a.m. – Seventh Place Game

Noon – Consolation Finals

4 p.m. – Third Place Game

7 p.m. – Championship Game

UNION 29, BIXBY 25

Bixby Scoring – Gentry Baldwin 8, Gracy Wernli 8, Meredith Mayes 7, Alyssa Nielsen 2.

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