By BEN JOHNSON
The weary finally got to rest. But the relaxation period is over.
Tahlequah, never getting to enjoy a true winter break by playing in the Siloam Springs (Ark.) tournament after Christmas and before New Year’s Day, returns to the basketball court on Tuesday night at Claremore in Metro Lakes Conference play.
For the Tahlequah girls, the road game in league play comes after a much needed break. The Lady Tigers — following a Jan. 5 setback at Bishop McGuinness — used nine days to heal up for a January-February stretch run that offers few days of idle time.
The hiatus was perfect, too, considering forward Casey Beaston went down with an ankle injury against the Irish.
“It was a good time for a break,” Tahlequah coach Chad Walker said.
Walker said Beaston should be in the lineup against Claremore, albeit not quite completely healthy yet.
“I’m going to guess she’s 70 to 75 percent,” said Walker, whose club stands at 7-5 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
“She’s going to start, but I told her I’m going to tape up both of her ankles, because now with her injured ankle she tries to compensate with her good ankle.”
In Claremore, Tahlequah will take on a team it swept last year — but by the narrowest of margins. The Lady Tigers’ two wins over Claremore last season came by a combined six points.
The Lady Zebras lost Miranda Taylor due to graduation last year, but Claremore retooled and now deploys Anna McGuire and Ashlyn Glenn as primary offensive threats.
“What troubles me is they’re averaging 20 shots a quarter,” Walker said, scouting the Lady Zebras. “They rebound very hard, so we’ll have to do a good job of blocking out and limiting them to one shot.”
Of Claremore, Walker went on to say, “They’re like a bunch of bubble bees. They keep coming at you.”
THS boys take on winless Zebras
After a recent rough patch, Tahlequah coach Mike Leafgreen embraced some time off last week.
“I think the layoff helped us work on some things we had been struggling with,” said Leafgreen, whose Tigers will challenge winless Claremore tonight. “And hopefully [it helped us] regroup mentally.”
Tahlequah, a loser of its last three games and five of its last six, begins a string of games that will have the Tigers playing away from home until Feb. 1.
“We’re getting ready to hit a pivotal part in our season,” Leafgreen said, “and [we] need to be mentally sharp.”
The Tigers (3-9, 1-4 Metro Lakes Conference) are coming off a humbling, 52-29 loss at Class 5A No. 3 Bishop McGuinness on Jan. 5. But Leafgreen said the game taught a lesson instead of shattering confidence.
“McGuinness showed us what can happen if you’re solid defensively and take care of the ball,” he said. “They weren’t flashy, definitely not the best athletes we’ve seen. But they were very efficient offensively and played great team defense.”
Consider that Tahlequah’s next mission to accomplish.