By Nick Hampton
OKTAHA — When you score 71 points and win by a comfortable margin, that’s usually a cause to celebrate for most teams. But not when you’re the Oktaha Tigers, bent on returning to the state playoffs this season.
After a somewhat sluggish start, the Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the Okrankings.com Class 2A coaches poll, righted the ship and went on to polish off the Okay Mustangs and remain undefeated on the season with a 71-46 victory Tuesday night at the Tiger gymnasium.
Okay slowed the pace of the game in the first half and used the outside shooting of Noah Eastwood, who scored all 12 of his points in the first two quarters, to stay close to the Tigers, despite turning the ball over eight times. Okay trailed by only seven, 29-22 at the intermission.
“We went in at half time and I told them we didn’t have any energy on defense,” said Tigers coach Jim Glover. “To get some energy, we decided to jump into a press and used a couple of zone defenses to get Okay to speed the game up.”
The third quarter was all Oktaha (9-0) as forward Christian McIntosh scored 10 of his 16 points in that quarter and the Tigers outscored the Mustangs 25-12 to lead by 20 at the end of three quarters.
It was the Tigers big three of Blake Pittman, McIntosh, and Dustin Leach who accounted for 52 of Oktaha’s points. Leach led with 21 points while Pittman had 15.
Leach echoed his coach’s comments about defense.
“We aren’t play like we should as a team coming back off a state quarterfinal appearance,” he said. “Our offense will take care of itself, but our defense is what makes this team.”
Nigel King got the hot hand in the fourth quarter for Okay (2-5) as he scored 11 of his team’s 12 points to cut the lead to 15 at one point. King led all scorers with 25 points.
Oktaha scored 11 of the final 12 points of the game for the final margin.
Oktaha 82, Okay 23
Also perfect at 9-0, the 2A No. 4 Lady Tigers scored 14 points in the first four minutes of the game before the Lady Mustangs were able to dent the scoreboard. Oktaha led 23-1 after the first quarter and 38-12 at halftime, then outscored Okay 26-3 in the third quarter to put the game away.
Oktaha’s defense forced the Lady Mustangs into 26 turnovers and 33 shots for the game where they were 26-of-70 (37 percent).
“We’re playing well together and we’re working on our depth as we got to play a lot of girls tonight,” said Oktaha coach Chester Pittman. “We’re going to have to be able to play a lot of kids when we come back from the holidays and get into the meat of our schedule.”
In all, 12 players scored for Oktaha, led by Lanessa Grayson with 13 points. Freshman Shea Lynch contributed 10. Courtney Smith was the leading scorer for the Lady Mustangs (5-5) with nine points.