TAHLEQUAH - A 15-0 run to end the first half helped the Tahlequah Tigers move into sole possession of second place in the Metro Lakes Conference with a key win over defending conference champion Bixby, 78-68 Friday night at Tiger Field House.

The Tigers were led by the scoring triumvirate of Jacob Todd, Matt Qualls and Marcus Tyner. Todd led the Tigers with 22 points. Matt Qualls added 19 and Tyner scored 16 in his first game in front of his hometown fans since Dec. 20.

With the win, Tahlequah (9-6, 6-1) moves one game behind Bishop Kelley in the race for the conference crown. More importantly, the Tigers control their own destiny, with major games coming up against teams they have beaten at home, Claremore and Bixby on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. If head coach Leroy Qualls troops can take care of those teams, they will be set up for a title tilt on Valentine’s Day when the Tigers make the trip to Tulsa to battle Bishop Kelley.

Tahlequah jumped out on top with a drive to the basket by Todd. Bixby took their first, and only, lead of the contest at 3-2 on a 3-pointer by sharp-shooter Josh Sallee.

Tyner nailed his first 3-pointer of the night at 6:10 to put the Tigers up 5-3. Tahlequah would score 6 points in just 46 seconds to up their advantage to 11-5.

David Qualls got things started with a fall away jumper. Tyner picked the pocket of a Spartan and dished off to Todd for an uncontested layup. Another steal, this time by Jacob Etzkorn, led to another basket by Todd.

Tyner hit two field goals in the final 1:36 to give the Tigers a 15-11 advantage after one.

Tahlequah really took control of things in the second, outscoring the No. 9-ranked Spartans 24-8.

Things started off ordinarily enough. Matt Qualls hit a field goal, but Bixby answered with 4 points, cutting the Tiger lead to 17-15.

The Spartans got a taste of what was to come with Tahlequah going on a 7-0 run. Jordan Holderby hit a pair of free throws, Matt Qualls added 5 with a put-back off of his own miss and knocking down a 3-pointer.

Chris Harris scored back-to-back baskets to pull Bixby within 5, but the Spartans wouldn’t see the lights change on their side of the scoreboard again until the second half.

A basket and a free throw gave Etzkorn an old fashioned three point play, beginning the killing run with 3:21 to play in the half. Eighteen seconds later Etzkorn scored again, this time knocking down a field goal.

Todd came up with a steal and 2 more points and Tyner hit another 3-pointer to put the Tigers up 34-19. Todd added the final 5 points of the half on a field goal, a free throw and a baseline jumper to send Tahlequah into the locker room with a 39-19 advantage.

Todd made the run 17-0 with a basket to begin the third period before Bixby finally stopped the bleeding.

Etzkorn and Matt Qualls gave the Tigers their largest lead of the game at 21 with a 44-23 advantage. Bixby chipped away, but Todd scored 4 more points to keep the Tigers up by 18.

A free throw by senior J.D. Alberty at the 2:44 mark ended a 6-0 run by the Spartans.

A basket by David Qualls and four free throws by Tyner gave Tahlequah a 56-43 lead heading into the final stanza with a 56-43 lead.

Freshman Matt Qualls powered Tahlequah in the fourth period, scoring 10 of the Tigers 22 points down the stretch.

Bixby tried to rally, but were thwarted at every turn by a stiff Tiger defense that kept the Spartans down by 13 and 15 points most of the period.

Matt Qualls scored 8, David Qualls 4 and Tyner and Todd added 2, as Tahlequah held a 13 point lead with 2:09 remaining.

A Bixby 3-pointer brought the Spartans to within 10. Etzkorn answered with a field goal, but the Spartans went on a 6-0 run to cut the Tiger lead to six, 74-68.

Todd made things look a lot better for the Tigers with a pair of free throws with 38 seconds left, and a key rebound by David Qualls and a pair of charity shots by Matt Qualls sealed the Tahlequah 78-68 win.

Matt Qualls had 18 rebounds and five blocked shots. David Qualls had six assists and three blocked shots. The Tigers shot 27 of 33 free throws.

Bixby vs. Tahlequah

Bixby 11 8 24 25 - 68

Tahlequah 15 24 17 22 - 78

Tahlequah - Jacob Todd 22, Matt Qualls 19, Marcus Tyner 16, Jacob Etzkorn 9, David Qualls 8, Jordan Holderby 2, J.D. Alberty 2

Bixby - Harrison Haugland 17, Ronnie Neal 15, Chris Harris 14, Josh Sallee 14, Sean Pilkenton 5, Drew Sanders 3

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