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AREA REVENGE: Hornets figure out Lady Tigers en route to State Tournament

Mar. 5—In basketball, there is an old saying that it is hard to beat a team three times is hard. What they don't tell you is beating a team four times is even harder, and the Tahlequah Tigers learned that in the Area Tournament on Saturday, March 2 against Booker T. Washington.

This season the Lady Tigers picked up a win over the Hornets in the Tahlequah Invite, Regional Championship and an 8-point midseason-win. But they couldn't overcome a tough look from the Hornets in the second half. Despite the lead, the Lady Tigers couldn't adjust to the second-half look from the Hornets and fell by 51-48.

"They just sped us up a little bit and we were expecting it. We had a good lead, and we knew they were going to show some pressure and for whatever reason we didn't handle it well, we did all season," THS Head Coach David Qualls said.

The strong start was much needed for THS after a slow start in round one saw them fall to Coweta. That loss saw the Lady Tigers not hit a three-pointer for the first time all season. In the first half against the Hornets, the Lady Tigers hit 8 three-pointers to take their big lead.

Along with the strong offense, the Lady Tigers' defense was locked down in the first half. THS allowed just 8 points in the first quarter and 10 in the second quarter. During this time, the Hornets' Marcalya Johnson had just five points.

"It was important, you could see the confidence, we hit eight threes the first half," Qualls said. "We were feeling it and were playing pretty high confidence, it was pretty even halfway through the third quarter, the last three minutes just got to us."

Coming out of the locker room, the Hornets started pressing and switched their defense from zone to man-to-man to stump the Lady Tigers. The potent three-point play was all but shut out thanks to the constant pressure.

The Lady Tigers didn't hit a three-pointer in the second half. On top of that, THS hit just three shots from field goal range in the second half.

"It affected us a lot in the second half, we had some good looks but couldn't get them to fall," Qualls said.

One thing that CHS and the Hornets both did well was shut down the Lady Tigers' paint production. While THS' Jaydyn Buttery and Kori Rainwater have been potent this season from the paint, they were limited in both Area games. Neither player was able to hit the 15-point mark in either game. Buttery and Rainwater were limited to around 10 points in each of the two Area games.

Qualls saw the same effect from two different processes.

"Coweta just sagged it in a little. Booker T. has good size with two six-footers in there, which makes it tough on anyone. We had some lay-up and free throw opportunities and we just didn't cash in," Qualls said.

With the loss to the Hornets, the THS faithful had their last chance to see a strong senior class. THS will lose five starters in Buttery, Rainwater, Jersey Retzloff, Madi Matthews and Tayln Dick and their sixth player off the bench, Paisley Qualls.

THS picked up most of their offense from this strong senior class.

"It is kind of too early to tell who will make up our scoring, I know that our seniors made up 90% of our offense," Qualls said. "This has been an outstanding senior class, they left their legacy at THS, They have been fun to watch, they brought a crowd together tonight and have been a lot of fun to coach. Life isn't fair, you have a great season and just have a rough week, I am proud of that group."

The Lady Tigers end their season with a 24-3 record with wins in the Tahlequah Invite, Mother Road Classic, District Championship and Regional Tournament.

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