By JOHN D. FERGUSON
CLAREMORE — Dalton Cunningham knew the Tigers (4-8) could have done better. Cunningham, for sure, did all he could.
“I’m a little upset now,” said Cunningham after he scored 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. “We should have beaten them by much more. We didn’t hit our free throws, either.”
Tahlequah did miss 13 free throws for the game and watch a 17-point, third quarter slowly dwindle down to a six-point margin. However, coach Mike Leafgreen’s crew was never in any real danger.
Cunningham and Lain Wright played most of the game in foul trouble. Wright eventually did foul out with 32 seconds left, but Cunningham managed to continue playing.
Besides winning, Cunningham had a distinct goal entering the contest.
“I wanted a double-double before the game started,” Cunningham added. “The coaches told me to crash the boards. That’s what I need to try to help the team win.”
Cunningham hit 5-of-7 field goal attempts and tallied 2-of-3 from 3-point range. He also had two steals and an assist.
Cunningham was the only Tiger in double-figure scoring. Jake Vader had a good defensive game and contributed eight points and four rebounds.
Claremore (0-10) was led by Darrius Murphy’s 18 points. Dontre Murphy added 11 and Brett Russell hit 10.
Claremore 48, Tahlequah (girls) 46
Everyone knows free shots are not free and at times can be very costly. That was the case for the Tahlequah Lady Tigers during the Metro Lakes Conference high school basketball game at Claremore Tuesday night.
Tahlequah (7-6) overcame a 17-point, halftime deficit to have a chance to win late. Thwarting the Tigers were 14 missed free throws and five crucial misses during the final frantic 2:59. To add insult to injury, a 3-point shot by Randee O’Donnell was halfway through the basket, but somehow managed to pop out with 11 seconds left.
If O’Donnell’s shot goes in, Tahlequah leads 49-48 as Claremore (6-5) only scored one point in the last 2:40.
“Sixteen turnovers and we can’t make a free throw. Unbelievable,” said Tiger coach Chad Walker. “That’s the story of our life and four of our losses. We can’t hit free throws and control the ball.”
Overshadowed by the missed chances at the foul line was Tahlequah’s successful full court pressure employed in the second half. The Tigers made the Zebras have long scoring droughts because of ball pressure. The tactic nearly worked for a win.
Jhonett Cookson led Tahlequah with a double-double performance with 10 points, 13 rebounds and two assists. She missed the first 1-and-1 free throw chance with two seconds left to seal the Tigers’ fate.
Alissa Hadley made two huge 3-point baskets during the second half rally and finished with six points. Lindsay Wade also hit a pair of treys and tallied nine points overall. O’Donnell finished with eight points and three steals. Marisa Girdner recorded seven points and three steals. Whitney Wright had four points and three steals.
Losing a big lead was not what Claremore coach Stephanie Shaw had envisioned.
“We focus daily on making free throws and blocking out,” Shaw said. “We did get 1-of-2 of those right tonight.”
The Zebras had their own free throw woes as they missed four in the second half after not missing any in first two quarters.
Freshman Bailey Steckline led Claremore’s scoring with 11 points. She scored seven of those points in the final 5:26 and received high praise from her coach for her poise during the final two minutes.
“She never panicked,” Shaw added.
TAHLEQUAH 54, CLAREMORE 47 (BOYS)
Tahlequah 9 17 15 13 54
Claremore 9 7 13 18 47
Tahlequah: Cunningham 21, Vader 8, Carlile 7, Dick 6, McMillan 4, Wright 4, Smith 3, Moore 1.
Claremore: Da. Murphy 18, Do. Murphy 11, Russell 10, Joyner 4, Caton 2, Garroutte 2.
CLAREMORE 48, TAHLEQUAH 46 (GIRLS)
Tahlequah 10 7 15 14 46
Claremore 15 19 5 9 48
Tahlequah: Cookson 10, Wade 9, O’Donnell 8, Girdner 7, Hadley 6, Wright 4, Beaston 2.
Claremore: Steckline 11, Glenn 9, Cox 7, McGuire 6, Crews 6, Taylor 3, Johnson 2, Gott 2.