TULSA – With several lead changes and momentum swings throughout, Bixby High’s season-opening girls’ basketball game at Union came down to a frenzied finish.
Bixby’s youthful team – which had three freshmen starting and four playing numerous minutes - seized the early momentum in charging to a 17-12 first quarter lead and held a 24-23 advantage at halftime.
A drive to the hoop by freshman Gracy Wernli and a driving jumper with one second left by junior Janiyah Hendricks sparked the Lady Spartans to a 36-31 lead entering the fourth quarter. After junior Kate Bradley’s field goal with 5:50 left gave BHS a 38-34 lead, the Lady Redskins battled back. Union, which converted a couple of Bixby turnovers into points down the stretch, used a jumper by Jayla Burgess and two free throws by Kaylen Nelson to take a 40-38 lead with 3:17 remaining. A free throw by Bradley with 3:05 left and another driving field goal by Wernli with 47 seconds left lifted the Lady Spartans to a 41-40 lead. Both teams turned the ball over before Burgess banked in a short field goal with 18.6 seconds left for a 42-41 UHS lead.
Bixby, which went 12-12 last season, got the ball in the hands of Bradley, a starter last season, and she took the ball to the hoop. Burgess blocked Bradley’s field goal attempt and the Lady Redskins knockedaway another field goal try during a hectic scramble before Burgess secured the ball.
Burgess, a 6-2 senior, hit one of two free throw attempts with 1.2 seconds left for a 43-41 lead. Bradley brought the crowd to its feet when her full-length court, on-target field goal attempt fell short.
“That’s what we wanted … for their defense to either sink off our ace shooter or she’d get fouled. Our playmaker had the ball in her hands, and we trust her to make the right decision. I thought she did an awesome job,” Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas said afterward. “When you put a kid in that situation part of the time it’ll come out successful, the other time it doesn’t. The next time we’re in that situation I’m going to put the ball in Kate’s hands again … she’s a competitor,” she added. “Union is a good club, their key players made key plays at key times. They have
height and good players.” Bixby, which only has two seniors on its roster, competed from start to finish but Union’s combination of veteran, talented players and a size advantage ultimately decided the game. “The ball game came down to offensive rebounding, we allowed them too many offensive rebounds,” Coach Thomas said. “So many of the young girls aren’t used to the physicality of the game at the varsity
level … going from eighth grade to that level is a process. “You never know what to expect when you have young ones. I’ve seen this group play a lot. They have a
lot of experience, maybe not at the high school level, so I knew they were capable of that kind ofperformance. I’m proud of the girls and their effort.”
Freshmen Alyssa Nielsen and Wernli led the balanced Lady Spartan attack with 10 points each. Bradley finished with nine points, freshman Gentry Baldwin with six and senior Avery King and Hendricks with two each. Burgess topped Union, which was 14-4 and a state qualifier last season, with 11 points.
BIXBY INVITATIONAL – Bixby returns to action Thursday through Saturday, December 5-7, when it hosts the annual Girls Invitational Tournament at Whitey Ford Field House. The Lady Spartans meet Southmoore in the first round at 8 p.m. Thursday, December 5. Other teams in the tourney include Edmond North, Owasso, Edmond Memorial, Putnam City, Sapulpa and Ponca City. “It’s going to be a tough tournament … it’s one of our tougher tournaments,” Coach Thomas noted. “We’re looking forward to it. I’m going to see if I can switch our second game on Friday to maybe 3:30
p.m. to help with our crowd and so our kids can go support the football team in the state finals.”
Thursday, Dec. 5 3:30 p.m. – Sapulpa vs. Ponca City; 5 p.m. – Edmond North vs. Owasso; 6:30 p.m. – Edmond Memorial vs. Putnam City; 8 p.m. – Bixby vs. Southmoore.