By BEN JOHNSON
It would be easy to say that Desiree Phipps hasn’t been able to catch a break in 11 months. However, a break is what began Phipps’ run of bad luck.
“I fractured it and tore the ligaments,” the Tahlequah guard said of her right ankle, which she hurt against Fort Gibson in early February of last season.
She never played again during the 2011-2012 campaign, as her teammates fell two wins short of making the Class 5A state tournament.
“It was really tough,” Phipps said of sitting and watching during Tahlequah’s final seven games last season. “...I just had to sit there, and I couldn’t do anything.”
Luckily for Phipps, she had three more years of varsity basketball ahead of her.
Yet, this season didn’t quite begin as planned. Phipps fell ill only days before Tahlequah was slated to open the season at home against Skiatook.
“It was like a flu,” Phipps said. “Then, I came back and I was out of shape. I was just weak and stuff.”
She ended up missing the Lady Tigers’ first four games. The first three were easy wins for Tahlequah, before Muskogee beat the Lady Tigers in the finals of the UKB Tiger Invitational.
Fittingly, though, Phipps made her return this season against a team she torched twice last season: Bishop Kelley. In two games against the Lady Comets last season, Phipps tallied 20 points — her career high — both times.
Tuesday night in Tulsa, Phipps didn’t reach the 20-point mark. But she did score 11 points with five assists and five steals.
“She hit her first shot she put up,” Tahlequah coach Chad Walker said of Phipps in Tahlequah’s 54-51 loss in Metro Lakes Conference play. “She immediately made an impact, because we could not score from the outside.”
Phipps said she was just glad to be back playing again.
“It felt pretty good,” she said. “It was kind of tough coming back and getting in rhythm, but it was kind of fun.”
With Tahlequah’s loss at Bishop Kelley, the Class 5A No. 7 Lady Tigers fell to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in league play. Next up for Tahlequah will be tonight’s game at the TMAC against 5A No. 10 Collinsville.
“I’ve been worried about Collinsville for the last six months,” Walker said of the Lady Cardinals, who are 5-1 after their 10-point win over Pryor on Tuesday.
“I knew they were going to come back strong, and I know it’s going to be a battle.”
Tahlequah’s No. 1 priority will be shutting down Collinsville’s Shelbie Kirby, who has led the Lady Cardinals in scoring every game and is averaging 17.5 points a game.
“We’ve about decided that we’re going to play our straight-up man defense,” Walker said. “...We’re going to rely on our half-court defense and keep them from attacking the basket.”
Collinsville at Tahlequah
Where: Tahlequah Multipurpose Activity Center.
Nicknames: Tahlequah Tigers; Collinsville Cardinals.
Records: Tahlequah (3-2, 1-1 Metro Lakes Conference); Collinsville (5-1, 2-0).
Coaches: Tahlequah (Chad Walker); Collinsville (Kelly Clarke).
About Tahlequah: The Lady Tigers are No. 7 in Class 5A. ... Tahlequah has lost two straight games (61-54 to Muskogee and 54-51 to Bishop Kelley). ... Tahlequah beat Collinsville twice last season by an average of 11.5 points per game. ... Jhonett Cookson leads the Lady Tigers with 13 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. ... Tahlequah will host Coweta on Saturday in Metro Lakes Conference play.
About Collinsville: The Lady Cardinals are No. 10 in 5A. ... Collinsville is 4-1 against ranked teams this year, with the only loss to 4A No. 8 Cascia Hall (47-43) in the Vinita tournament semifinals. ... Prior to Collinsville's 55-45 win over Pryor on Tuesday, the Lady Cardinals' first five games were decided by an average of 5.2 points per game. ... Shelbie Kirby, who scored a season-high 27 points against Miami on Dec. 6, is leading Collinsville with 17.5 points per contest.
Records: Tahlequah (1-4, 0-2); Collinsville (0-3, 0-2).
Coaches: Tahlequah (Mike Leafgreen); Collinsville (Todd Anderson).
About Tahlequah: The Tigers have lost three straight and are coming off a 68-48 loss at Bishop Kelley on Tuesday. ... Lain Wright is averaging 25.5 points per game in conference games. ... Tahlequah swept Collinsville during the regular season last year.
About Collinsville: The Cardinals have lost by an average of 21.7 points per game this season. ... Kanyon Cole's 12 points against Bishop Kelley on Dec. 4 in the highest point total by a Collinsville player this season.