TULSA - The Tahlequah Lady Tigers played the Tulsa Union Lady Redskins tough for three periods, but a 24-5 second period explosion by the host school put Head Coach Mindy Madewell-Moseley’s team into a hole they could never claw their way out of as the best season in six years ended for the Lady Tigers, 57-35 Thursday night at the Union Multipurpose Activity Center in the first round of the Class 6A Regional playoffs.

The No. 7-ranked Lady Redskins were the most celebrated team Tahlequah has faced all season, but that didn’t keep the girls from playing with confidence in the first period, despite the absence of second leading scorer and 3-point threat Nikki Girdner who was forced to sit out the contest because of doctors orders.

Union jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead and it looked like the rout most people expected was on.

The Lady Tigers had other ideas however. Cakie Lenard hit a three to cut the lead in half at the 3:46 mark and the defense of Shelbi Bowin and Ana Poteete held Union’s main scoring threat, Lisa Chenoweth, in check for the first eight minutes.

Lacey Dake took over the scoring slack for the Lady Redskins, increasing the lead to 10-3. But a five-point Tahlequah surge in the final 33 seconds on a basket by Katie Atkins and the second three of the period, this one by freshman Stephaney Clinton, playing in only her second varsity contest, ended the first period with the Lady Tigers down 10-8.

The Lady Redskins, playing in front of their home fans and on their home court at the UMAC, came out on fire in the game-altering second period.

Tahlequah continued to shut down the main weapons for Union, but there laid the biggest advantage for the Lady Redskins. While the Lady Tigers have a student body of 1,228 to fill out their 15-man playoff roster, Union has a selection of 3,921.

The difference in the talent pool was the difference in the game with reserves Grace Evans, Maddie Miller and Brooklyn Scheer coming in to spark the second period rally. Evans scored four points in the big blow 10-0 run with Scheer scoring three and Miller hitting back-to-back 3-pointers.

Tavarie Hamilton hit a field goal and Clinton added a jumper to go along with a Lenard free throw for the Lady Tigers, but Union led 34-13 heading into the halftime locker room.

Tahlequah played well in the third, continuing to hold down Chenoweth. The Lady Redskins scored the first six points of the half, increasing their lead to 40-13.

The Lady Tigers outplayed Tulsa Union the remainder of the game, outscoring the Lady Redskins 22-15 over the final 12 minutes.

Hamilton scored on a free-throw; Clinton added another field goal and Aly Benn tossed in a score off of a rebound with 31.7 seconds left in the third for Tahlequah.

Benn and freshman Ashton Hix scored back-to-back baskets for the Lady Tigers and Lenard and Hamilton hit a free throw and a field goal to cut the lead to 48-25.

Hix scored her the second basket of her career at 4:10 to give the Lady Tiger fans a glimpse of the future, while four year letterman Poteete scored the final points of her illustrious career with 3:43 remaining in the game, making the score 50-29.

Lenard finished her career by hitting a pair of three-pointers to cut the lead to 17.

Union hit a three at the buzzer to set the final score at 55-35.

Tahlequah ended the season with a loss, but as a whole, the 2005-’06 season was a successful one. The Lady Tigers finished the regular season at 11-11, marking the first non-losing year since 2001. The team’s 12 losses was the fewest since the 2001 state tournament year and the girls managed to win the most home games in a season since, again, the state years of the Ronnie Rogers era.

As the season began, only eight Lady Tigers took the floor at Muskogee. By the end of the year the success and interest in the program had returned with Madewell-Moseley able to field an entire 15 player roster.

The future looks bright for the rejuvenated program. Seniors Ana Poteete, Cakie Lenard, Jodie Hubbard and Nicole Lamont will be missed, but a solid nucleus remains with juniors Nikki Girdner, Tavarie Hamilton, Manda Lewallen and Aly Benn, Sophomores Shelbi Bowin, Ashley Trammel and Lacy Moon and Freshman Katie Atkins, Stephaney Clinton, Ashton Hix, Christina Kirk and Kayla Capps all gaining plenty of valuable experience during the courts of the season.

Tahlequah 35, Union 55

Tahlequah 8 5 5 17 - 35

Union 10 24 10 11 - 55

Tahlequah - Cakie Lenard 11, Stephaney Clinton 7, Tavarie Hamilton 5, Aly Benn 4, Ashton Hix 4, Ana Poteete 2, Katie Atkins 2

Union - Lacey Drake 14, Lisa Chenoweth 7, Danielle Gilchrist 8, Maddie Miller 6, Grace Evans 4, Brooklyn Scheer 3, Destinee Ferguson 3, Kourtney Egge 2, Stevie White 2, Chelsea Harrison 2, Breynna Winkler 2

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