By Ron Holt
Overcoming sluggish starts, Bixby’s sixth-ranked Lady Spartans responded with strong efforts down the stretch in capturing Frontier Valley Conference victories at Broken Arrow (67-36) last Tuesday and against Muskogee (58-30) in BHS’s Whitey Ford Field House last Friday.
The Lady Spartans, currently on a three-game winning streak, improved to 11-6. Bixby returns to action this week-visiting No. 10 Jenks (10-5) on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and hosting Bartlesville (6-12) on Friday, Feb. 3.
Muskogee’s zone defense kept Bixby from getting into an early offensive rhythm. The struggles continued throughout the first half despite the Lady Spartans leading 11-2 after one quarter and 20-13 at intermission.
“We just tried to shoot after one pass, and we weren’t moving the ball. We didn’t do the things to beat a zone – quicker passes and driving in the gaps. I thought we did a better job, at moments, in the second half,” said Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas.
The Lady Roughers (5-12) opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run to trim Bixby’s advantage to 11-9 with 4:46 showing. A three-pointer by Lady Spartan senior Gracy Wernli and five consecutive points by senior Alyssa Nielsen lifted Bixby to a 19-11 lead with 1:04 showing in the second stanza.
Bixby elevated its play in the second half – sparked by freshman guard Kate Wernli- as the Lady Spartans opened the second quarter with a 13-2 run increasing its lead to 33-15 with 3:50 remaining. After a field goal by senior Gentry Baldwin opening the second half, K. Wernli, who was scoreless in the first half, sank a three-pointer, followed by a three-point play off a rebound put-back and another trey. “Kate Wernli knocked down a three that helped us pull away,” coach Thomas said.
K. Wernli scored 10 of her 12 points in the third quarter. “We weren’t playing as a team in the first half and we knew we needed to pick it up,” K. Wernli said. “I told myself to do better and we did better as a team in the second half. We just had to figure out our zone offense.
“Getting those points early in the second half got us rolling,” she added.
Four points by Baldwin and field goals by G. Wernli and Arna Musick during the final minute of the third quarter gave the Lady Spartans a 43-19 lead going into the final quarter.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it was another opportunity to get better and learn a little more about ourselves. We’ll take it as we move forward and go back to work,” coach Thomas said.
Baldwin led Bixby in scoring with 13 points, followed by K. Wernli with 12, G. Wernli 11, Nielsen with nine, Musick eight and Brynn Daniel with two. Bianca McVay led Muskogee with 13 points.
Bixby 67, Broken Arrow 36
BROKEN ARROW – An early scoring outburst by sophomore McKenzie Mathurin, who scored eight straight points, gave Broken Arrow an 8-4 lead with 5:09 showing in the first quarter earlier in the week. The Lady Spartans regrouped and went on a 13-0 run while relying on their stout pressing defense to take control of the game at 17-8 with 2:13 left in the opening stanza.
G. Wernli scored nine points on two three-pointers and a conventional three-point play while Nielsen and Baldwin added two points during the run.
Five points by Musick, four points by G. Wernli and two from Baldwin helped Bixby seize a 29-17 halftime lead. The Lady Spartans outscored the Lady Tigers 24-7 in the third quarter as G. Wernli scored nine of her game-high 25 points in the third stanza.
“We’ve been working hard on the press in practice, and it showed tonight. Our togetherness and cohesion were crazy in our last game (win over Union) since we were coming off a loss. We’re coming together and playing as a team,” said G. Wernli, who victimized Broken Arrow’s zone defense throughout.
Bixby’s defensive pressure, which has increased in recent games, created turnovers by the Lady Tigers and was crucial to the Lady Spartans’ ability to pull away for the victory.
“We had worked on our press, and I thought we looked a little more uniform tonight,” Coach Thomas said after the BA win. “Our offense is not as fluid as I’d like to see it at times and defensively we had some lapses. It’s time to nail some things down.
“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction … I think we got better tonight. Our goal is to get better every night so come playoff time we’re running like a well-oiled machine, we’re not right now but we’re getting there,” she added.
G. Wernli’s 25 points topped the Lady Spartans’ offensive effort. Baldwin, Musick and K. Wernli each contributed 10 points while Nielsen had eight points and Sadie Beltran and Kate Dotel each scored two points. Mathurin and TarrynJacobs led BA (11-6) with nine points each.
The 10 points by Musick, a Bixby sophomore guard who is seeing her playing time increase, were her most points in a varsity uniform.
“I’ve been getting into the flow on our offense and that’s helping me a lot,” Musick said.”I feel as I continue getting a little more playing time and more practice, I’ll be 100 percent into the flow. It feels good knowing I have my whole team with me …that’s really helped me out.”
Bixby 58, Muskogee 30
(Friday, Jan. 27)
Bixby Scoring-Gentry Baldwin 13, Kate Wernli 12, Gracy Wernli 11, Alyssa Nielsen 9, Arna Musick 8, Brynn Daniel 2.
Bixby 67, Broken Arrow 36
Bixby Scoring-G. Wernli 25, Baldwin 10, K. Wernli 10, Musick 10, Nielsen 8, Sadie Beltran 2,
Kate Dotel 2.