By Ron Holt
In another competitive battle, unbeaten Edmond North turned back short-handed Bixby, 48-42, to capture the Bixby Invitational championship last Saturday night in Whitey Ford Field House. It was North’s second straight Bixby tourney title.
The Lady Spartans jumped out to a 12-5 first quarter lead and held a 20-17 lead at halftime. Edmond North, the defending Class 6A state champion, rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out the hard-earned victory.
Laci Steele, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, led Edmond North in scoring with 27 points. Bixby was led by freshman Kate Wernli with 17 points and Alyssa Nielsen with 11 points.
The Lady Spartans played without starting senior post Meredith Mayes, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) early in a semifinal victory over Edmond Memorial last Friday night.
“I thought they played with tenacity and resolve,” Bixby head coach Tina Thomas said of the Lady Spartans. “I was proud of their bounce back after the disappointment of Mere’s injury.” Senior Gracy Wernli and K. Wernli were named all-tournament while Edmond North’s Elle Papahronis joined teammate Steele on the all-tourney team. Others named all-tourney were sophomore Avery Hjelmstad of Edmond Memorial and sophomore McKenzie Mathurin of Broken Arrow.
Bixby, 3-1, returns to Frontier Valley Conference play Tuesday (Dec. 13) at Sand Springs and ends the week with a conference game at Owasso on Friday (Dec. 16).
The Lady Spartans overcame a physical challenge and emotional disappointment while capturing a thrilling 56-53 overtime victory over talented Edmond Memorial in a tourney semifinal game last Friday night.
Memorial stormed to an early 8-0 lead before the Lady Spartans responded with an 8-0 run featuring two points by Gentry Baldwin, G. Wernli and Mayes along with two free throws by Mayes to tie the game at 8-all.
The Lady Bulldogs used a three-pointer by Janiyah Williams for an 11-8 lead before a layup by Mayes narrowed the first quarter deficit to 11-10 with 25 seconds left. As the quarter ended, Mayes was injured trying to score underneath, suffering a knee injury. The four-year Lady Spartan starter was in obvious pain before being carried off the court. She was walking assisted by crutches after the game. It was a stunning development for the Lady Spartans and their fans.
“It was tough psychologically, it was tough on me,” said coach Thomas. “It was a big blow when Meredith went down but the kids regrouped and kept their resolve.” Bixby senior Nielsen came to life in the second stanza, scoring six points, including a jumper with less than a minute left to lift the Lady Spartans to a 22-19 halftime lead. K. Wernli also provided a spark off the bench, contributing four second quarter points.
Bixby impressively opened the third quarter, scoring six straight points on field goals by K. Wernli, Nielsen and G. Wernli for a 28-19 lead. Memorial battled to get within 33-29 with 1:06 left in the third quarter before K. Wernli drained a three-pointer and Nielsen sank a jumper for a 38-29 lead.
Four points by the Lady Bulldogs’ Williams narrowed the score to 38-33 entering the fourth quarter. After a drive by K. Wernli gave Bixby a 47-40 lead with 5:33 left in the final stanza, Memorial scored seven straight points to tie the game at 47-all with 3:06 remaining. Bixby turned the ball over with 52 seconds left but a three-point attempt by Memorial’s Williams misfired at the buzzer, forcing overtime.
Trailing 49-47, Bixby used two free throws each by G. Wernli and Neilsen and one free throw by K. Wernli to lead 52-49 with 2:11 left in the extra session. With the game tied at 53-all, Bixby pulled away on three free throws by K. Wernli, the last two coming with 5.6 seconds left as the Lady Spartans salvaged the hard-fought victory.
K. Wernli led the Lady Spartans in scoring with 20 points while G. Wernli added 16 and Nielsen finished with 12. Mayes scored six points before departing. It was a historic night for G. Wernli, who surpassed scoring 1,000 points in her Bixby career.
“Was it the prettiest game you’ve seen, no but I was proud of them,” coach Thomas said. “Some of the young ones came in there to help. Kate Wernli picked it up big time and filled her role. I was really proud of Gracy getting her 1,000 th point. There was a lot to be positive about … it was just tough.”
G. Wernli, a 5-10 senior guard, needed nine points entering the game to surpass 1,000 points. She had mixed emotions afterward.
“I’m incredibly proud of us, we had to get through a lot mentally in that game,” G. Wernli said afterward.
“Obviously losing Meredith hurts. Our bench came in and did exactly what they needed to do. As bad as it is, those young girls get experience, but it also gives them confidence.
“That was awesome,” she said of eclipsing 1,000 points. “I came in knowing I needed nine points. I could not have done anything without those girls out there, they had my back. They helped me achieve my goal.”
Hot-shooting sophomore guard Avery Hjelmstad led Edmond Memorial in scoring with 22 points. Williams, who moved to Memorial from Stillwater last year, finished with 10 points.
In the tourney opener, Bixby had few problems in a 119-22 victory over out-manned Oklahoma City Douglass. The Lady Spartans scored 44 straight points, mainly on steals and layups, starting the game before Douglass scored with 38 seconds left in the first half. Bixby led 52-2 after one quarter and was on top 73-9 at intermission.
G. Wernli led the Lady Spartans’ balanced attack with 23 points, followed by Mayes with 21, Nielsen with 19, K. Wernli with 11 and Gentry Baldwin and Brynn Daniel with 10 each. Twelve Lady Spartans scored in the game.
BARTLESVILLE – In the season opener last Tuesday (Dec. 6), Bixby was efficient offensively and defensively from the start in rolling to a 96-52 victory over Bartlesville in a Frontier Valley Conference at the Bruin Field House. The 96 points could be a Lady Spartan record
With the game tied 4-4, Bixby erupted for 12 consecutive points and a 16-4 lead with 3:20 left in the first quarter. Three-pointers by Brynn Daniel, Gracy Wernli and Gentry Baldwin in the final 2:36 of the first quarter gave the Lady Spartans a 25-6 lead. Leading 25-9 early in the second quarter, Bixby erupted for 13 straight points. Freshman Kate Wernli, making her first varsity appearance, sank back-to-back three pointers while older sister G. Wernli drained a three, Meredith Mayes put back a rebound and K. Wernli scored off a drive for the 38-9 lead with 4:07 left before halftime.
“I was a little nervous going in, but I was just super excited to be out there playing,” said K. Wernli. “I’ve been playing with them all summer, playing with my sister is my favorite thing. I thought we played well as a team tonight.”
Bixby led 44-21 before outscoring the hosts Lady Bruins 22-2 midway through the third quarter for a 66-23 lead with four minutes remaining. A three-pointer by Baldwin, a layup by Nielsen and a trey by Daniel gave the Lady Spartans a 78-30 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“The girls came out very motivated. We were a little high on turnovers for my liking, but I was proud of them for the first time out,” coach Thomas said. “Ninety-six points is a lot of points. I never have or never will try to run the score up on anybody but early in the year we’re working on what we need to work on regardless.
“We’ve been working on our aggression and our press. They are physically stronger … our strength and conditioning program has really made them stronger which has helped them on the defensive side. They shared the ball very nicely tonight, that’s one of our goals.”
Mayes led Bixby in scoring with 22 points, followed in double figures by Baldwin with 19, G. Wernli 16 and K. Wernli 14.
“I feel we looked really good. It was good to get back into a rhythm and be playing again,” said Nielsen, who finished with seven points and numerous assists. “This was a good opener for us. Our coaches tell us goals for each game and one emphasis today was a lot of assists
“It felt good when I assisted and Mere (Mayes) did a good job of finishing,” she added.
EDMOND NORTH 48, BIXBY 42
Bixby Scoring – Kate Wernli 17, Alyssa Nielsen 11, Gracy Wernli 6, Ama Musick 4, Gentry Baldwin 4.
BIXBY 56, EDMOND MEMORIAL 53, OT
Bixby Scoring – Kate Wernli 20, Gracy Wernli 16, Alyssa Nielsen 12, Meredith Mays 6, Gentry Baldwin 2.
BIXBY 119, OC DOUGLASS 22
Bixby Scoring -Gracy Wernli 23, Meredith Mayes 21, Alyssa Nielsen 19, Kate Wernli 11, Gentry Baldwin 10, Brynn Daniel 10, Bailey Wilson 6, Sadie Beltran 5, Kate Datel 4, Ama Musick 2, Sarah Beltran 2, Kenzie Christian 2.
BIXBY 96, BARTLESVILLE 49
(Tuesday, Dec. 6)
Bixby Scoring – Meredith Mayes 22, Gentry Baldwin 19, Gracy Wernli 16, Kate Wernli 14, Ama Musick 8, Alyssa Nielsen 7, Brynn Daniel 6, Bailey Wilson 4.