By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Kelsey McClure brought the offense, or most of it. Mari Jackson found the rebounds, and Bixby saw that Muskogee once again may be a roadblock to the Class 6A state tournament.
McClure scored a game-high 28 points and Jackson had a career-best 15 rebounds to go along with 18 points as the No. 8 Lady Roughers knocked off No. 2 Bixby 64-59 in a Class 6A top-10 battle Tuesday night at Ron Milam Gymnasium.
“There were three keys,” Muskogee coach Doyle Rowland said. “One was we had to rebound. Two, we had to beat their two big guns. Three was score against their zone defense. And, I’ll add a fourth — win the fourth quarter.”
Yet at 9-2 overall, 3-2 in Frontier Conference after its fourth consecutive win, this was a different Muskogee team than the one Bixby (10-2, 5-1) faced and lost to 56-51 in the regional finals last year — a team minus the inside muscle they won with a year ago.
Or so it was thought. Graduation had nothing to do with Jackson, whose introduction to the Lady Spartans was noted.
After an early 8-2 deficit on the boards, the Lady Roughers began to heat up in that category. Jackson had all 15 of her boards beyond that start. She had 12 points after the break, several coming on her own putbacks.
“I watched Chelsie Keys and what she did in regionals against them (eight points, 12 rebounds) and I got ambitious,” said Jackson, who had just arrived from Chicago then and was awaiting eligibility. “If I’m not scoring, I’ve got to beat them on the boards.”
McClure, of course, was around in last year’s battle.
She had 18 points in the first half — six more than she had all game in that regional — keeping it close with her 3-of-4 start in the first quarter while the rest of the team was 1-of-9. She also had a pair of quick 3-pointers with just over 3:00 to go in the half to cool a Lady Spartans’ rally and start Muskogee on a 13-2 streak to close the half up 29-27.
McClure cooled somewhat after the half, but hit two crucial 3-pointers. But then, with just over a minute left, she escaped a triple-team trap and sliced her way to the glass before kicking off to Jackson for a layup that made it 62-54 and all but sealing the contest.
“We played with a lot of focus,” she said. Then, losing her battle to hold a chuckle, added, “I felt a little LeBron James out there.”
Stevi Parker, Bixby’s 6-0 forward, had 19 points and just three boards after four in the first three minutes. Guard Christina Devers had 22 points but was just 2-of-9 in the first half. She had 12 third-quarter points as the Lady Spartans trailed 46-45 going to the fourth where, as Rowland said, point four was accomplished.
Freshman Aaliyah Wilson had six points in to help accomplish that, finishing with 10 points.
Muskogee 43, Bixby 38
There’s a scouting secret out now — if you poke David Beasley in the right eye on a foul, he can’t see.
The Muskogee point guard sank two clutch free-throws with his team up 3 to all but seal the game at 41-38, but missed a pair a few seconds later that would have nailed it. The Roughers (6-5, 3-2) held on anyway.
“I shoot out of my left,” he said. “I tried but I was like (squinting). I just couldn’t.”
Beasley finished with 11 points, just ahead of post man Tramal Ivy, whose double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds) also proved to be key.
Muskogee coach Josh Berry didn’t seem to be concern about what might end up in opponent’s scouting reports concerning his point guard.
“He played like a true point guard, like we’ve been trying to get him to all year,” Berry said. “He controlled the tempo and made plays, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Those plays helped get him to the line. Beasley made the Spartans defense come to him and made them pay for it, sinking 4 of 4 from the line in the quarter with his good eye.
Down 10-8 after a quarter, a 10-2 run gave the Roughers an 18-12 lead just before the half. Beasley scored on a layup with 2:08 to go in the third, giving MHS its biggest lead at 41-33, a margin they would equal once more.
Cantrell Ashley added eight for the Roughers.
Breyden Fivecoats led Bixby (5-7, 2-4) with 11 points.
Muskogee returns to action on Thursday at home against Union in 6 and 7:30 p.m. games.