By BEN JOHNSON
David Dick snuck past a pair of Sapulpa defenders, caught a long inbounds pass and was intentionally fouled on his way up. The Tahlequah junior had a chance to add to the Tigers’ 11-point lead with the Chieftains closing the gap during the second half.
He couldn’t do it. His two free throws were off the mark.
But he made up for it.
Seconds later, Dick buried a 3-pointer and Tahlequah’s lead was up to 14, which would be good enough to keep Sapulpa at bay in what resulted in a 64-54 victory for Tahlequah.
“That was really huge,” Leafgreen said of the sequence in the third quarter, which Dick tallied his trey off a Sapulpa turnover. “There were a couple of possessions where they went to a trap that we kind of got out of sync. And after he missed those two [foul] shots, he was able to come back and hit that big shot.”
Dick led all scorers with 16 points off the bench for Tahlequah, which advanced to the semifinals of the UKB Tiger Invitational at the middle-school-student-filled TMAC on Thursday.
“This might have been one of my best performances at the varsity level,” said Dick, whose team will take on Moore at 8:30 tonight.
Teaming up with Darius Madison, Dick helped the Tigers’ bench outscore Sapulpa’s reserves, 29-4. Madison, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, came off the bench to provide the Tigers with 13 points and nine rebounds.
“I thought Darius really stepped up,” Leafgreen said. “He hit a couple of shots and played well inside. He really did what we had been hoping he’d be able to do this season for us.”
For the Tigers (1-1), their first victory of the season came nearly a week after dropping a narrow, 63-60 setback at home against Skiatook.
“That was a good bounce-back for us,” said Dick, who scored 10 points after halftime against Sapulpa (0-2). “We really needed that.”
Tahlequah and Sapulpa traded leads six times — with three ties — in the first quarter before the Tigers went ahead 13-9 at the end of the first eight minutes. The Tigers then ballooned their four-point lead to 20-10 on Dalton Cunningham’s 3-pointer early in the second period.
Cunning scored all of his 10 points in the first half, which came to a close with Tahlequah leading 36-19.
“First half we just didn’t show up,” Sapulpa coach James Womack said. “We missed shots and allowed them to make shots. We played pitiful defense, and they just out-played us, out-hustled us and out-coached us in all aspects of the game in the first half.”
The Chieftains flirted with getting back within 10 points in the third quarter before Dick provided enough cushion with his 3-pointer to eventually allow to end the third period up 47-33.
Sapulpa trimmed Tahlequah’s lead to nine points (58-49), but by that time there was only 49 seconds left in the contest.
In the field-goal shooting and rebounding departments, Tahlequah and Sapulpa matched each other in both categories. The Tigers went 22 of 59 (37.3 percent) from the floor, while Sapulpa was 32.4 percent (22 of 68). Both teams also grabbed 41 rebounds apiece.
The difference maker in the second half was Sapulpa’s inability to knock down free throws. The Chieftains failed to chip away at Tahlequah’s lead by going 5 of 21 at the foul line
“Oh my gosh,” Womack said when asked about free throws. “We came off the other night where we shot over 70 percent [at the free-throw line]. Then tonight — whatever our percentage was — it’s just lack of mental toughness.”
Sapulpa — who got 12 points apiece from DeShawn Zachary, Sam Johnson and Larry Marshall — will take on Highway 97 rival Sand Springs in the consolation semifinals at 2:30.
Tahlequah 64, Sapulpa 54
Sap 9 10 14 21 — 54
Tah 13 23 11 17 — 64
Sapulpa (0-2): DeShawn Zachary 12, Sam Johnson 12, Larry Marshall 12, Brady Wagner 9, Harlan 5, Barrett 2, Rush 2.
Tahlequah (1-1): David Dick 16, Darius Madison 13, Dalton Cunningham 10, Vader 9, Wright 8, Carlile 6, Alberty 2.
UKB Tiger Invitational
Game 1: Moore 56, Muskogee JV 41
Game 2: Tahlequah 50, Sand Springs 23
Game 3: Rogers Heritage (Ark.) 40, Yukon 35
Game 4: Muskogee 53, OKC Southest 11
Game 5: Muskogee JV vs. Sand Springs, 10 a.m.
Game 6: Yukon vs. OKC Southeast, 1 p.m.
Game 7: Moore vs. Tahlequah, 4 p.m.
Game 8: Rogers Heritage vs. Muskogee, 7 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 11: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 4 p.m.
Game 12: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 1: Tahlequah 64, Sapulpa 54
Game 2: SOYLA 54 Muskogee 48
Game 3: Coweta 63, Enid 52
Game 4: Moore 56, Sand Springs 40
Game 5: Muskogee vs. Enid, 11:30 a.m.
Game 6: Sapulpa vs. Sand Springs, 2:30 p.m.
Game 7: SOYLA vs. Coweta, 5:30 p.m.
Game 8: Tahlequah vs. Moore, 8:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 11:30 a.m.
Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 11: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 5:30 p.m.
Game 12: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 8:30 p.m.