By JOHN D. FERGUSON
COLLINSVILLE — Here is all you need to know about Tahlequah’s fourth quarter against Collinsville: Lain Wright.
Wright scored all nine of the Tigers’ final period points and he did it in dramatic fashion. Wright’s four steals in the final four minutes blunted the Collinsville momentum to eke out a 39-38 Metro Lakes Conference boys basketball victory Tuesday night.
Tahlequah improved to 4-6 in league and 7-13 overall, but nearly gave the game away. Collinsville (4-12, 3-6) erased a 15-point deficit and held the lead three times in the final 2:52.
But, Wright would not allow the Tigers to lose and began his thieving ways.
“It was definitely crazy,” said Wright, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “We didn’t come out ready to play in the third quarter.”
Wright came out ready in the fourth quarter, however.
Steals and points at the 1:14 and 18-second mark by Wright were devastating. On three fourth-quarter steals, Wright made baskets and on the fourth he had to make two pressure free throws.
Wright calmly made the free shots for a 39-38 lead.
However, the tension was far from over.
The Cardinals had four shots at the basket in the final 12 seconds from close range, but could not buy a basket. The last attempt was rebounded by Dalton Cunningham to preserve the win.
“It makes you better to win by one than by 41,” Tahlequah coach Mike Greenleaf said. “They gutted it out. We missed shots and lay-ups, but I’m proud of them. They did what it took to finish.”
The Tigers got a scare when Matt Alberty dislocated his little finger late in the game, but it was returned to its normal position quickly.
Only Wright scored more than 10 points for the Tigers. Jake Vader followed with six and David Dick had four.
Kendall Curtis’ 10 points led Collinsville. Nate Johnson had a game-high 11 rebounds for the Cardinals.
“This was one of my better defensive games,” Wright added.
Collinsville knows that all too well.
Collinsville 58, Tahlequah (girls) 55
A steal, basket and free throw by Collinsville’s Shelbie Kirby turned the game around quickly for victory in the final 11 seconds.
The Cardinals took over sole possession of second place in Metro Lakes play and broke the tie with the Lady Tigers. Collinsville moves to 8-2 in league and 13-6 overall.
It was a testament to never giving up for Tahlequah despite the loss. The Lady Tigers appeared flat and could not buy needed baskets, but yet still had a chance to win at the end.
Tahlequah led 54-53 when Kirby got her steal. She drove to the basket to score and was fouled. She completed the three-point play.
The game was as even as the records of each team. The lead changed hands 20 times and the score was tied on 13 occasions.
“We were a step behind all night,” Tiger coach Chad Walker said. “We didn’t shoot that well, but they kept playing.”
Marisa Girdner, Whitney Wright and Casey Beaston each scored 12 for the Lady Tigers. Girdner added six assists, but also played in foul trouble. Beaston was in the same situation and eventually fouled out with 11 seconds left.
“We had a chance (at the end), but could not make it happen,” Walker added.
Kirby led all scorers with 20 points. Cardinal teammates Maddie Vaughn and Kryston Wheeler added 14 and 11 points, respectively.
TAHLEQUAH 39, COLLINSVILLE 38 (BOYS)
Tahlequah 14 9 7 9 39
Collinsville 7 4 12 15 38
Tahlequah: Wright 19, Vader 6, Dick 4, Moore 3, Cunningham 3, Carlile 2, Alberty 2.
Collinsville: Curtis 10, McElroy 6, Iannapollo 6, Johnson 6, Cole 5, Kocheski 5.
COLLINSVILLE 58, TAHLEQUAH 55 (GIRLS)
Tahlequah 8 15 12 20 55
Collinsville 11 12 12 23 58
Tahlequah: Girdner 12, Beaston 12, Wright 12, Hadley 9, O’Donnell 4, Blevins 3, Carnes 2, Wade 1.
Collinsville: S. Kirby 20, Vaughn 14, Wheeler 11, Salisbury 7, Driggers 2, Smith 2, Jefferson 2.