By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
VINITA – On paper, it was a battle between two of Class 4A’s top-10 teams in Vinita on Friday.
On the scoreboard, it was a school playing its first game of the season versus a school with one game under its belt and it was the school with the game in hand that came out on top as the No. 2 Fort Gibson Lady Tigers improved to 2-0 with a 52-32 win over the Vinita Lady Hornets.
“Our rebounding was the key tonight,” said Fort Gibson coach Jerry Walker. “Cheyenne Johnson and Savannah Gray were unbelievable, defensive and offensive boards. Plus, Grace Parker gave us great minutes off the bench and that was huge.”
Gray had a game-high nine rebounds while Johnson was one behind with eight rebounds. Johnson said the key to the rebounding advantage was positioning.
“Us being able to get around them was a key,” Johnson said. “Also, our height really helped.”
The two teams played a sloppy opening few minutes of the first quarter, committing a combined eight turnovers with Fort Gibson holding a 4-3 lead with 4:27 left. That’s when the Lady Tigers began to take control, mainly on the strength of Glover’s two three-point shots to forge a 12-7 lead after the first quarter.
Fort Gibson opened up the second quarter with a 12-0 run using an inside-outside game with Palmer down low and Glover up top to take a 28-14 lead at the half.
Palmer began to take over in the third quarter, scoring eight of her points inside to give the Lady Tigers a 43-22 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“In practice every day, we work on my positioning,” Palmer said. “If someone’s on my left, I move to the right, the opposite way they move. Also, I was using my body to gain the initial advantage.”
The Lady Tigers also forced the Lady Hornets into 24 turnovers for the game, 18 of which came in the second and third quarters.
No one scored in double figures for Vinita. Carsyn Spurgeon finished with nine points and five rebounds while Sydney Hopwood had led the Lady Hornets with seven rebounds.
For the game, Fort Gibson shot 50 percent from the field (23-of-46) including 33 percent (5-of-15) from 3-point range. The Lady Tigers held Vinita to 26.5 percent (13-of-49) shooting including 1 for 15 from three-point range.
“Vinita is a very good ball club and there gonna do nothing but get better,” Walker said. “Steve’s (Reed) team is very young. There one of the top teams on this side of the state and it will be a whole different team when we see them in the spring. “
Boys: Fort Gibson 71, Vinita 66
Whatever Fort Gibson coach Gary Hendrix said to his team at halftime sunk in as the Tigers turned a four-point deficit into an eight-point advantage at the end of the third quarter, then held on for the win.
Jordan London and Eric Hudson combined for 17 of Fort Gibson’s 24 points in the third quarter to put the Tigers up 53-45. London and Hudson finished the game with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Jordan Hill led FGHS with 18 points as the Tigers improve to 2-0.
“We changed up our defense at the half,” Hill said. “We were playing a 5-even where our corners went out to a 2-3 with more bluff on our three-point line and let our guards go get the ball. We were still letting them shoot the three but we were crashing the boards and not letting them have offensive rebounds.
Hendrix was proud of the way his team fought back after a so-so first half.
“Our guys are playing hard and that’s really all you can ask,” Hendrix said. “As long as they do that, we’re gonna get better. We made some silly mistakes at times but it’s still early in the year.”
The Tigers and Lady Tigers travel to Coweta today with the girls’ game tipping off at 6:30 p.m. and the boys to follow.