By LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
COWETA — The two new eras in Tahlequah High School basketball got off to distinctly different starts Tuesday night at Coweta High School.
With a smothering defense that forced 15 turnovers, the No. 10 Tahlequah Lady Tigers started their 2013-2014 campaign with a 51-32 Metro Lakes Conference win over the No. 18 Coweta Lady Tigers (0-1).
“It’s always nice to start the season out with a win, especially one on the road in conference play,” first year coach Johnny Dyson said. “I thought the girls came out and played well defensively. They executed very well.”
Senior Whitney Wright provided the initial spark for Tahlequah (1-0) with eight first quarter points, outscoring the home team single-handedly through the early frame. Sophomore Lindsay Wade led all Tahlequah scorers with 10 points.
After allowing Coweta to get within seven points by the end of the first half, Tahlequah used a 9-2 run in the opening minutes of the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
The wide margin of victory could have been even larger, as the Tahlequah Lady Tigers struggled from the free throw line, going nine for 19 (47 percent).
“It’s something we need to work on, but it is probably just a little bit of nerves tonight,” Dyson said of his team’s effort from the foul line.
With three straight three-pointers in the second quarter in an effort to rally her team, Coweta senior Courtney Haas led all scorers on the night with 15 points and added two blocks on the defensive end.
In the late game, the No. 14 Coweta Tigers (1-0) used 14 second-chance field goals to rout the Tahlequah Tigers in the season opener for both teams, 61-40.
The first game under former assistant coach Pat Dotson, Tahlequah (0-1) never led Tuesday night. With four quick points from sophomore Will Carlile, the Cherokee County school pulled within two points early in the second quarter, but Coweta answered with a 12-6 rally over the last five minutes of the first half to pull away and never look back.
“Never how you want to start the season, but I’m proud of how our guys came back from the ugly start,” Dotson said. “Their strong, heart-felt effort and determination all night really showed, but Coweta came out more physical and outhustled us. We just couldn’t respond.”
Scoring 14 off of the bench, junior forward Dalton Cunningham was the only Tahlequah player to score in double digits.
Coweta had three players in double figures, led by junior forward Cagney Roberson with 16 points. One of Coweta’s starters, junior guard DeVante McCool, went down with an ankle injury late in the third quarter and did not return. Sporting a heavy bandage on the wounded ankle, he had to be carried to the locker room by two teammates after the game.
Tahlequah opens at home Dec. 12 when it hosts the Tahlequah Tournament. The girls will face No. 6 Tulsa Memorial (2-0) at 10 a.m., while the boys are scheduled to play Class 6A Enid in the first round at 11:30 a.m.
Tahlequah 51, Coweta 32 (girls)
Tahlequah 14 13 15 9 51
Coweta 4 16 6 6 32
Tahlequah — Wade 10, Wright 9, Girdner 8, Cunningham 6, Chase 5, Clarke 5, Black 4, Glory 4, Basks 2
Coweta —Haas 15, Elliott 13, Leslie Lee 2, McClanahan 2
Coweta 61, Tahlequah 40 (boys)
Tahlequah 7 15 8 10 40
Coweta 18 12 17 14 61
Tahlequah — Cunningham 14, Vader 6, Carlile 5, Dick 5, Kelley 4, McDowell 4, Smith 3, Presley 1
Coweta — Roberson 16, Ross 15, Norris 11, Culton 9, Kennon 7, McCool 2