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Lady Spartans Capture Two Wins, Face Busy Week

By Ron Holt

Sharing the ball effectively on offense and another solid defensive performance sparked Bixby’s Lady Spartans to a 53-22 Frontier Valley Conference victory over Owasso during Black Out Night at Whitey Ford Field House last Friday (Jan. 28).

It was the second win of the week for Bixby, which turned back Sand Springs, 45-34, last Tuesday. The Lady Spartans face a busy schedule this week, visiting Sapulpa on Tuesday (Feb. 1), traveling to Muskogee for a make-up game Wednesday (Feb. 2) and visiting Booker T. Washington on Friday (Feb. 4).

Bixby, 13-3 this season, scored nine quick points midway through the opening stanza to take a lead against visiting Owasso it never relinquished. Junior post Meredith Mayes hit four points, junior guard Gentry Baldwin swished a three-pointer and junior post Alyssa Nielsen scored in the paint for the 9-0 start.

A three-pointer by junior guard Gracy Wernli and layup by Nielsen in the final 47 seconds lifted the Lady Spartans to an 18-9 first quarter advantage. Five points by reserve guard Kassidy Blankenship, a trey by Baldwin and a turnaround jumper by Nielsen gave BHS a 28-11 first half lead.

Wernli scored seven straight points opening the third quarter while Baldwin and Blankenship sank back-to-back three-pointers late as the Lady Spartans steadily pulled away to lead 41-21 entering the fourth quarter.

“The girls really work hard … they were just doing what they do. I thought we came out with a great synergy and were in synch working as one unit and we kept that going when we went to the bench in the fourth quarter,” Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas said.

Wernli led Bixby’s scoring effort with 12 points while Baldwin chipped in with nine points. Nielsen and Blankenship each hit eight, Mayes had seven points, Sarah Beltran three and Brynn Daniel, Mady McClure and Ava Casper each finished with two points. Nine Lady Spartans scored in the game. Looking to find an open teammate is a Lady Spartan focus.

“It’s like we want to play all the time. Tonight, we showed it, we were all making the extra pass,” said Nielsen. “We’ve grown up together … we like to share the wealth.”

Reserves played the fourth quarter, limiting the Lady Rams to one point in an impressive performance.

“We are a lot more comfortable on the floor. Coming out I thought I needed to do something,” said Blankenship, which finished with a varsity season high of eight points off the bench. “We played together on JV a lot that helps us find our groove for playing in varsity games.”

Coach Thomas added of the reserves effort, “I just told them that was the best performance they had coming in off the bench. We told them to play defense like the score is 0-0. I was really proud of them.”

Bixby 45, Sand Springs 34

Staying the course despite constant defensive pressure and crunch time contributions by junior post Mayes lifted the Lady Spartans to a 45-34 Frontier Valley Conference victory over Sand Springs last Tuesday night (Jan.25) in Whitey Ford Field House.

“We played a little scattered and a little rushed at times, but you have to attribute that to their pressure,” Bixby’s coach Thomas said. “We practiced against our JV boys to prepare for that pressure. I didn’t feel we had an offensive flow at any time, but we did what we had to do to come out with a win.”

Sand Springs applied defensive pressure from the outset, forcing turnovers and keeping Bixby from settling into a comfortable offensive zone.

Trailing 6-4 early, Bixby went on a 7-1 run over the final 3:41 to lead 11-7 after one quarter. Mayes scored from in close, Wernli sank two free throws and Brynn Daniel swished a three-pointer with less than a minute left in the opening stanza.

A layup by Nielsen and three-pointer by Baldwin gave Bixby a 16-10 lead with 5:19 showing in the second period before Sand Springs scored seven straight points for a 17-16 lead with 2:08 showing. After a rebound put-back by Nielsen tied the game at 18-all, Baldwin drained a three-point field goal with 25 seconds left handing the Lady Spartans a 21-18 halftime lead.

Leading 21-20 early in the third quarter, Bixby used six points by Mayes and two by Nielsen to lead 29-22 with four minutes left. Nielsen sank a three-point field goal with 3:38 showing to increase Bixby’s margin to 32-23 while a rebound put-back by Mayes helped BHS to a 34-27 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Sand Springs’ Journey Armstead drilled a three-pointer opening the final frame narrowing the deficit to 34-30 but Mayes regained the momentum sinking a three-pointer for a 37-30 lead with 6:13 left.

Bixby led 40-34 with 3:06 left when Mayes again rebuffed the Sandites with a clutch rebound put-back followed by a free throw for a three-point play extending Bixby’s advantage to 43-34 with two minutes showing. A layup at the 12-second mark by Wernli gave the Lady Spartans the 11-point victory.

“They were locked down on Gracy tonight and we had a hard time getting her a shot but that’s why this team is successful because we have other tools,” coach Thomas said. “What Gracy did do tonight was a fabulous defensive job on No. 1 (Armstead).”

Mayes led Bixby in scoring with 19 points while Nielsen chipped in with 11 points, Baldwin with eight, Wernli with four and Daniel with three. Hailey Jackson paced the Lady Sandites with 15 points while Armstead contributed 12 points.

“It was a tense game. Sand Springs plays super-fast … they like to cause chaos,” Mayes said afterward. “We just tried to play like we wanted to, tried to keep our composure and stay calm. Playing against that pressure helps teach us to try to remain calm and learn to play at our pace.

“We just need to work on getting into our offensive flow. The energy was high tonight and I fed off that, especially from Alyssa. She was super hyped,” Mayes added.

NOTES – Bixby is riding a five-game winning streak. ….  The Black Out Night games with Owasso attracted the largest crowd of the season at Whitey Ford Field House. … Sapulpa (12-4) is the defending Class 5A state champion and currently ranked No. 1 in 5A East. Muskogee, which had three games postponed because of Covid issues, is 1-9 and Booker T. Washington is 7-9. “These next three games will be physical and they’re all on the road. This was a step in the right direction.,” Coach Thomas said following the Owasso win.

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