By Ron Holt
BARTLESVILLE – It didn’t take long to realize Bixby’s fourth-ranked Lady Spartan basketballers were motivated from the outset during a Frontier Valley Conference clash with Bartlesville here last Tuesday night.
Getting off to a fast, productive start has been the Lady Spartans’ focus recently. Buoyed by a pressing, tenacious defense and another balanced offensive effort, Bixby used an 11-0 start as the springboard for a 65-39 victory over the Lady Bruins.
Winning its third straight game, Bixby improved to 11-3 this season. Bartlesville fell to 3-9.
“They came out red hot and ready to go … they enjoy playing right now. I thought we had a lot of fire early on,” Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas said afterward. “We wanted to come out and set the tempo by pressing and pushing the ball downcourt. When you get a few buckets in transition it gets your confidence up.”
It doesn’t take long for a shooter to understand that shots appear to be falling. Bixby junior guard Gracy Wernli had that feeling following the opening tip. She scored off a drive, sank a short-range jumper and swished a three-pointer to lift the Lady Spartans to a 7-0 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
“Yes, I felt like I’d have a good game tonight … I felt good in warmups,” said Wernli, who scored nine first quarter points and scored 17 points by intermission. “Our start today was great. We were all on the same page and knew what we were going to do.
“We started pressing at the first and it gives our team a lot of momentum. Pressing gives us that burst of energy … our defense fuels our offense,” she added.
Field goals by guard Gentry Baldwin and post player Meredith Mayes extended Bixby’s advantage to 11-0 before the Lady Bruins got on the scoreboard on a field goal by Jordan Bilger with 4:40 showing.
Leading 15-7, Bixby used field goals by Alyssa Nielsen, Baldwin and Brynn Daniel for the final six points in the opening stanza as the Lady Spartans led 21-7.
A trey by Wernli and jumper by Nielsen made it a 26-9 game early in the second quarter before back-to-back three-pointers by Bartlesville’s Kate Gronigen and Bilger narrowed the deficit to 26-15 before Bixby reeled off eight straight points – a three-pointer by Baldwin, three points from Mayes and a field goal by Wernli. – expanding the lead to 34-15 with 2:58 left before halftime.
Three pointers by Baldwin and Wernli in the final two minutes gave the Lady Spartans a 40-20 halftime cushion.
Mixing in reserves with the starters in the third quarter, Bixby continued pulling away, taking a 52-25 lead into the fourth quarter.
Wernli led Bixby’s scoring attack with 20 points, followed by Baldwin with 17, Mayes with 10, Nielsen eight, Daniel four and Haley Prince, Ava Casper and Sarah Beltran with two points apiece.
“It’s good to get those girls on the bench some good minutes. It gave us opportunities to show those kids some love because they help us on scout teams in practice every day,” coach Thomas added.
Bixby is idle the rest of the week, spending its practice time preparing for a Tuesday (Jan. 25) home game with Sand Springs (10-0) and a Friday (Jan. 28) home game with Owasso. Both Frontier Valley Conference contests are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.