By Ron Holt
Riding a two-game losing streak, Bixby’s fifth-ranked Lady Spartans turned up the pressure in practice and from the opening tip last Tuesday night in Whitey Ford Fieldhouse in returning to form with a dominating 84-38 Frontier Valley Conference victory over Union’s youthful Lady Redhawks.
Bixby improved its season record to 9-6, returning to the win column after disappointing losses to Lincoln Christian in the recent Tournament of Champions finals and last week at home against Booker T. Washington. Union dropped to 2-10.
The Lady Spartans full court pressed at the start and was able to begin pulling away after forcing several first quarter turnovers. The press not only caused the Lady Redhawks problems but jump-started Bixby’s energy level.
“Union is a little young this year and I thought we’d be able to press them, but I felt like we played with a lot better synergy tonight,” Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas said. “The girls did a good job tonight.
“We didn’t talk much about the loss last week, we worked on some finer points of our execution, but we talked about not having so much pressure on ourselves and enjoying the game, enjoying the process.
“Using the press got the people on the bench involved because you’ll need them when you press. We need to get them in a game because they work hard in practice,” she added. “It’s helping them be ready for this season and get everybody ready for next year … it’s a short range and long-range outlook.”
Junior Brynn Daniel opened Bixby’s scoring with a field goal at the 7:17 mark. She was followed by senior Gentry Baldwin’s back-to-back three-pointers for a quick 8-0 Bixby lead. Leading 12-8, Bixby went on a 14-4 run to close out the first quarter with a 26-12 lead.
During the run, Baldwin scored five points, senior guard Gracy Wernli added four points, Daniel and Baldwin each had three and Kate Wernli scored two. A Baldwin three-pointer swished the netting with one second showing.
A steal and layup by Baldwin gave BHS a 28-12 lead at the 7:43 mark of the second quarter before Union rallied to make it a 28-16 game before G. Wernli drained a three-pointer and K. Wernli converted a three-point play giving the hosts a 34-18 lead.
Five points by the Lady Redhawks made it a 34-23 game with 2:20 left but the Lady Spartans closed out the quarter with a 10-0 run – featuring four points from senior forward Alyssa Nielsen and three-pointers by K. Wernli and G. Wernli – to lead 44-23 at intermission.
“Everyone did exactly what they needed to do tonight, everyone scored,” said G. Wernli, who led the Lady Spartans’ balanced attack with 29 points, three points shy of her career high. “Brynn hitting that first bucket was huge for us, that proved that she’s an outside shooter and they will have to respect her so that helped the outside shooters.
“Against Booker T we played individually instead of as a team. Our focus was to get more team energy together knowing that one person doesn’t have to do it all. We played so much better as a team and our flow was so much better,” added G. Wernli, who had 14 first half points.
“It was easy for us to say what we needed to do but it was a lot harder to do what we needed to do. The team came together … everyone is working extremely hard in practice right now.”
Five quick points to open the second half by G. Wernli gave Bixby a 49-25 lead and the Lady Spartans picked up where they left off in the first half, outscoring UHS 17-2 the remainder of the third quarter to lead 66-27 going into the final frame.
G. Wernli ‘s 29 points paced Bixby, followed by 19 points from Baldwin and 14 points by K. Wernli. Vanessa Coleman’s 13 points topped the Lady Redhawks.
“Our practice on Monday was a rough one but we deserved it. I think it (BTW loss) opened everyone’s eyes that you have to work for what you want … we got complacent, and we got beat by two great teams,” Baldwin said afterward.
“With us being the aggressor tonight was big for us and got us hyped up. We pushed the floor more and after we got a couple of steals out of it, we got our energy up. Adversity is good for us. It shows us that you have to show up and play well every time.
“We had accountability for everyone in our practice yesterday … it was good for us. Our bench stepped up huge tonight, they kept the flow going …. they did really well,” she added.
As she arrived for a postgame interview, Baldwin said, “We got that win, that’s why I’m smiling tonight. I’m not a big fan of losing.” Apparently, neither are her Lady Spartan teammates.
NEXT GAMES – Bixby was idle following the Union game. The Lady Spartans visit Broken Arrow Tuesday, Jan. 24, starting at 6:30 p.m. The No. 13 Tigers are 7-5 on the season. Bixby returns home Friday, Jan. 27, against Muskogee (3-9).
Bixby 84, Union 38
Bixby Scoring – Gracy Wernli 29, Gentry Baldwin 19, Kate Wernli 14, Alyssa Nielsen 8, Brynn Daniel 5, Ama Musick 4, Bailey Wilson 4, Sarah Beltran 1.