By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — When No. 4 Southmoore and No. 6 Muskogee faced off Saturday, it was more than a battle of Top-10 teams. With the SaberCats’ Kayla Tucker and the Roughers’ Alexus Wilson being cousins, there were family bragging rights on the line.
Tucker had a chance late in the game to secure both, but Muskogee held on to win 65-62 in the championship game of the John Nobles Invitational Tournament on Saturday at Moore High.
Wilson, who has signed with Oral Roberts University, ended the night with a spot on the All-Tournament team. But it was the prospect of having something to hold over her cousin’s head that put the biggest smile on her face.
“That’s even greater, Wilson said. “It makes it that much sweeter. We are going to be texting about this one.”
Yet, the SaberCats still had their chances.
With 2:32 left in the game, Southmoore’s Kyeria Hannah cut the Roughers’ lead to three points. But Kelsey McClure came back and drained a 3-pointer. Serithia Hawkins answered with a tough basket in the paint and Muskogee led 63-59 with 1:49 on the clock.
Twice the SaberCats had chances to cut the deficit to a single basket, but Kyra Gilbert and Tucker each missed layups. After Aaliyah Wilson knocked in a pair of free throws, Tucker connected for a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left.
The ‘Cats got the ball back and Hawkins went to the charity stripe and missed both free throws, but Southmoore got the rebound and called a time-out.
With five seconds left and trailing by three, Southmoore got the ball to Tucker. She dribbled left looking for an open shot. But the Roughers’ defense swarmed the senior and she was unable to get off a clean look as the buzzer sounded.
“I was trying to get a screen and get an open shot,” Tucker said. “But we just didn’t get to execute our last play at the end. It happens. We tried to get the win and it just didn’t happen for us.”
McClure, who was named tourney MVP, led all scorers with 25 points. Wilson added 23.
Hawkins paced the ‘Cats with 21 points and Tucker, who has signed with Alabama State, chipped in with 16.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of fighting,” Wilson said. “We have played for three straight days. At the end of the day, it was whoever wanted it more and didn’t quit playing. I thought we did a good job of fighting.”
The first half, was a battle of each teams strengths. Muskogee’s backcourt of McClure and Wilson were able get any shot they wanted on the perimeter while also driving to the lane for tough layups.
The SaberCats countered with the inside duo of Hawkins and Hannah. The 6--1 sophomores devoured rebounds and shot over the smaller Lady Roughers.
After being tied at the end of the first quarter, Muskogee was able to take a 41-31 lead into halftime as Southmoore settled for bad shots and continually turned the ball over.
“We came out of the first half kind of flat,” Tucker said. “We stuck with them, but we definitely weren’t playing to the caliber that we could.”
Southmoore tightened up its defense in the final period and was able to close in on the Roughers. However, for the third straight tournament this season, they were unable to close the deal in the championship game. It’s something the players now they will have to fix before the postseason.
“I think it is just something we have to work for. The last couple of tournaments didn’t really hurt. I think tonight was a tough for us. I think after tonight we will know we really don’t want to feel this again.”
Moore 50, Lawton 44 (7th place)
After a rocky start to their own tournament, the Lions rolled over the Wolverines Saturday. They jumped out to a 13-5 first quarter lead and never relinquished it.
Amanda Patterson led all scorers with 28 points. Caitlin Hall added 14 as Moore picked up its third victory of the season.
“That win was a confidence builder,” MHS coach Tim Gray said. “We have won two more games than last year and have been fairly competitive most games. We grow as a team each game, each practice, each workout. Remember we only have one girl from last year who started and received major playing time. The others are growing exponentially in their knowledge of the game. We just needed more basketball time to learn the game.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com