By BEN JOHNSON
As the fouls mounted up in the first half, Chad Walker had to turn to his bench.
No big deal.
Lindsay Wade, Reagan Clark and Paige Carnes turned in valuable minutes to guide Tahlequah to a 65-33 rout of Pryor on Tuesday night.
“Our bench did a good job,” said Walker, Tahlequah’s coach who got 22 points from his bench. “The bench came in and did a good job in the first half, with JoJo (Jhonett Cookson), Marisa (Girdner) and Whitney (Wright) all having two fouls.”
Cookson led Tahlequah with 17 points and nine rebounds before resting on the bench for the majority of the second half.
In fact, Cookson appeared early on like she could be a candidate for a triple-double with three blocks in the first three minutes of the contest. However, the 6-foot-1 sophomore only had one more block the rest of the way.
“JoJo ought to be doing that every game,” Walker said of Cookson, who led Tahlequah to a 43-18 rebounding advantage. “In my view, the only thing that stops her is her.”
In front of a relatively quiet crowd of 350 at the TMAC, Tahlequah led wire to wire, only to be threatened in the opening stanza.
Tahlequah sprinted out to a 7-0 lead before Pryor responded with a 7-2 run. Tahlequah, though, took advantage of Pryor’s overzealous full-court pressure and went on a 8-0 run to end the first period.
“They got in that silly press, and we got eight to 10 points right off the bat,” Walker said. “As a matter of fact, I looked up with two minutes left in the first quarter, and I told Randee (O’Donnell), ‘quit trying to run an offense.’ We have a fast break that we run, so I said, ‘just run the fast break the whole time.’ We were beating them all down the floor and getting pretty good shots.”
It was never a game from that point on.
Tahlequah recorded its highest point total of the year, eclipsing its previous high of 59 in a season-opening win over Skiatook.
Casey Beaston added 12 points for Tahlequah, which shot 41.7 percent (20 of 48) from the field — if you take away the 2-of-11 showing with the game already in hand in the fourth quarter.
Jaclyn True paced Pryor with 12 points. Kelsie Kerns added 10 points for Pryor, which was a dismal 11 of 45 (24.4 percent) from the floor.
Already a half game up on Collinsville in the Metro Lakes Conference standings, Tahlequah improved to 4-1 in league play and 6-2 overall.
“I just got done telling them that I’m really proud of them,” Walker said of his postgame speech. “We haven’t even played our best ball and we’re 6-2. I can’t wait to see what happens when they mature and gel together.”
Pryor fell to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in Metro Lakes Conference play.
Tahlequah will be off until Dec. 27, when it’ll begin play in the Siloam Springs tournament in Arkansas.
Tahlequah 65, Pryor 33
Pryor 7 5 10 11 -- 33
Tah 17 19 16 13 -- 65
Pryor (2-5, 1-3): Jaclyn True 12, Kelsie Kerns 10, Montoya 4, Shelby 2, Zumstein 2, Chavoya 2, Osborne 1.
Tahlequah (6-2, 4-1): Jhonett Cookson 17, Casey Beaston 12, Whitney Wright 8, Randee O'Donnell 6, Wade 6, Carnes 6, Clark 4, Hadley 3, Blevins 3.
Pryor 56, Tahlequah 38 (boys)
With Tahlequah’s second straight loss closing in, Tahlequah coach Mike Leafgreen called a substitution timeout late in the fourth quarter. No one knew whether to huddle or move on to the subsequent inbounds pass.
Nevertheless, it gave everyone in the stands a chance to head toward the exits with 1:14 left in what would turn into a 56-38 victory for Pryor.
“We’re just not playing well right now,” Leafgreen said, as his club fell to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in Metro Lakes Conference play. “We’re showing some signs of being really good, and then we’re showing signs of not carrying our assignments.”
Chase Ross’ 11 points led a trio of Pryor players in double figures. Zac Baumert, who recorded four assists, and Robert Ross both tallied 10 points apiece.
Jake Vader was Tahlequah’s only player to score in double digits with 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting from the field. All of Vader’s points, though, came in the first half.
Tahlequah jumped out to a 6-0 advantage early on before Pryor went ahead 15-10 at the end of the first eight minutes. By halftime, Pryor led 31-17.
“Right now, the second quarter has been our downfall in every game,” said Leafgreen, whose team went 3 of 15 from the field in the second quarter.
Making a push to get back in the game after intermission, Tahlequah cut Pryor’s lead to 31-23, thanks to a turning up the intensity on defense. But three straight turnovers helped Pryor build back up to a double-digit lead, which it would hold on to the rest of the way.
In the end, Tahlequah turned the ball over 21 times while shooting 17 of 53 from the field. Pryor also tossed up 53 shots while making 21 of them.
Pryor 56, Tahlequah 38
Pryor 15 16 10 15 -- 56
Tah 10 7 10 11 -- 38
Pryor (4-3, 3-1): Chase Ross 11, Zac Baumert 10, Robert Ross 10, Ogg 7, Frailey 6, Moss 4, Ayres 3, Barth 3, McCollough 2.
Tahlequah (2-6, 1-4): Jake Vader 11, Wright 8, Alberty 5, Madison 4, Smith 3, McMillan 2, Dick 2, Faddis 2, Cunningham 1.