By GREGG STILWELL
Press Special Writer
TAHLEQUAH - It was the best of times, it was almost the worst of times. It was definitely a tale of two halves. Tahlequah jumped out to a 37-18 lead at the end of the first 16 minutes of play, but foul trouble and hot shooting by Catoosa in the second half led to a tie game with 1:13 to play. But Shelbi Bowin came up with a big basket and followed with a steal and Katie Atkins hit a free throw to give the Lady Tigers a 49-46 Metro Lakes Conference win Friday night at Tiger Field House.
The Lady Tigers, 6-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play, have now won four straight and six of their last seven games to move two games over .500 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
For the second straight game the Lady Tigers would never trail. Ana Poteete came out hot, connecting on her first five field goal attempts. The senior scored eight in the first period and was dominant inside of both sides of the ball.
The inside play of Poteete opened up the perimeter and Tahlequah took advantage with Nikki Girdner hitting a three and Atkins adding two threes.
A field goal by Atkins, followed by her own 3-pointer, gave the Lady Tigers a 12-5 lead with two minutes remaining in the first. The Lady Indians came up with a score to cut the lead to 12-7, but Tahlequah went on a 9-0 run to end the period.
Poteete connected on her third and fourth field goal attempts, Atkins hit a three and senior Cakie Lenard added two, giving Tahlequah a comfortable 21-7 lead after one.
Lenard nailed a 3-pointer just 90 seconds into the second period, followed by a steal and a score by Bowin, increasing the Ladies’ lead to 26-9.
Poteete hit double digits in the scoring column, connecting on her fifth field goal in five tries at the 4:53 mark.
Amanda Lewallen, one of three Lady Tigers to join the team just before the Christmas break, hit a jumper to move the advantage to 19 points, 30-11.
Lenard hit a three to give Tahlequah their largest lead of the game at 34-12.
The Lady Indians came back with two unanswered baskets to lower the deficit below 20 points with 2:05 to play.
The Lady Tigers answered with foul shots of their own. Atkins hit one of two and Lenard made two of three. A last second basket sent the teams into the locker room with Tahlequah leading 37-18 and a packed house of Tiger supporters giving the Ladies’ a standing ovation.
Things started out well for Tahlequah in the third. Poteete went right back to work tossing in a field goal and Bowin added two, giving the Lady Tigers a 41-20 advantage.
With Girdner, Bowin and Atkins in foul trouble, Catoosa made an old fashioned three-point play to cut the lead to 41-23. Amber Haus caught fire and banged through back-to-back three pointers in a 28 second span. A steal and a basket gave Catoosa an 11-0 run in only two minutes and four seconds, bringing the Lady Indians to within 10 at 41-31.
Poteete ended the run with another basket at 1:56, but Catoosa came back with Haus hitting her third 3-pointer of the period.
With 36 seconds left, Lenard hit a 3-pointer. At the time it looked like just an answer to Catoosa’s three that would give the Lady Tigers the momentum back with a 46-34 lead heading into the final stanza. Eight minutes later, Lenard’s bomb proved to be bigger than anyone could imagine.
Catoosa dominated the next seven minutes, turning what looked to be a cakewalk into a nail-biter. The Lady Indians went on a methodical 12-0 run, getting within two at 46-44 with 1:30 to play and, to the shock of the Tiger fans’ tying the game at 1:15.
The Tiger fans could have been silenced by the turn of events, but they were determined not to let the enemy walk into their house and steal a win. The decibel level rose and the Lady Tigers finally got on the board with a driving basket by Bowin, reclaiming a lead of 48-46.
The crowd was in a frenzy and their noise, along with the athleticism of Bowin, confused Catoosa and brought about a steal with 33 seconds left in the game. Atkins was fouled and the freshman hit one of two to give the Ladies’ a 49-46 advantage. A desperation try to tie the game fell short and the buzzer sounded, giving Tahlequah a 49-46 victory.
After the traditional shaking of hands with their opposition, the Lady Tigers headed into the stands to thank their supporters in a classy move.
“We came out with a bang,” said head coach Mindy Madewell-Moseley, “pushing the ball and playing good pressure defense. We shot 90 percent from the field in the first quarter. But the second half was a different story. I think we were tired, which affected our shooting. We didn’t shoot as well, but Catoosa did. I am proud of the girls. They played so hard and were so aggressive. I saw some sparks offensively and defensively that I am looking forward to seeing more of. I am so proud of Ana for stepping up and playing aggressive. Hopefully this will give her a boost of confidence that will continue to help us out.”
The Lady Tigers will be in action at the Port City Classic in Catoosa on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. against Tulsa Tech.
Catoosa vs. Tahlequah
Catoosa 7 11 16 12 - 46
Tahlequah 21 16 9 3 - 49
Catoosa - Casey Molencupp 13, Amber Haus 13, Courtney Dill 11, Becky Chesney 5, Rachel Magness 2, Tessa Wiseley 2
Tahlequah - Ana Poteete 14, Cakie Lenard 13, Katie Atkins 11, Shelbi Bowin 6, Nikki Girdner 3, Amanda Lewallen 2
By GREGG STILWELL