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CHAMPS AGAIN: Lady Tigers adds another trophy with Regional win

Feb. 23—Earlier this season, the Lady Tigers took down the McAlester Buffaloes by just 2 points en route to winning the Tahlequah Invite.

On Friday, Feb. 23, the Lady Tigers once again had to go through a tough Buffalo team on the way to winning the Regional Tournament Friday, Feb. 23. The Lady Tigers continued their run to the State Tournament with a 57-39 win.

"They are real disciplined and well-coached, they sunk in defensively and made it hard to score in the paint," THS Head Coach David Qualls said. "In the first half, we didn't make very many shots; we missed a lot. We did a good job playing team defense and had a really good second half."

While the Lady Tigers beat the Buffaloes by just two possessions in their first meeting, there was a bigger difference in the Regional Tournament. Despite keeping up with the Lady Tigers throughout the first half, the Buffaloes couldn't overcome a strong second half from THS.

Coming out of the locker room with the game within two possessions, the Lady Tigers looked to come out strong on offense. After keeping up with MHS, the Lady Tigers quickly built a strong lead. By the halfway point of the third quarter, the Lady Tigers were up by double digits. The strong stretch continued as THS went into the fourth quarter up 43-27.

"You play all season to play for a position for the Regional Championship," Qualls said. "A little advisory in the first half, Jaydyn Buttery gets her third foul very early, and it changed some things for us."

THS was able to keep the strong showing from the third into the fourth quarter and took the win.

While the Lady Tigers broke out in the third quarter, the first half was a back-and-forth fight. After heading into the second quarter with a 16-15 lead, the Lady Tigers had to battle to build a lead.

Neither team could get on the board in the early minutes of the quarter. THS senior Kori Rainwater broke a nearly four-minute scoreless streak from both teams with a free throw to break the stagnant scoring.

When Rainwater opened things up, the game started to flow once again. After Rainwater's free throw, the Buffaloes tied it up, but Madi Matthews quickly hit a 3-pointer to retake the lead.

"About halfway through the quarter, we switched to zone defense and it gave them a different look," Qualls said. "We were able to sting some drives in a row and we were able to extend our lead. I thought we passed well in the second half. Really, we played at a high IQ in the second half."

Throughout that second quarter, the Lady Tigers struggled on offense, thanks to turnovers and foul problems. During the first quarter, Jaydyn Buttery was put on the bench after picking up three quick fouls. This saw Buttery head to the bench for the next four minutes.

Once Buttery was back on the court, the Lady Tigers got into their groove and eventually built a 25-19 lead going into halftime.

"It was really important; the second quarter was a really important stretch. We took care of it better than taking care of the ball after the first quarter," Qualls said.

The Lady Tigers had two players finish with over 20 points for the second time this playoff run. Taylyn Dick led the way with 22 points. Rainwater finished with her second straight 20-plus point performance.

"That is three different players in the last two games to score over 20," Qualls said. "We had a game where Jaydyn had early foul trouble and didn't get many minutes and as many shots up. It is important to have multiple scorers in the playoffs."

THS will be back in action at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 29 in the Area Tournament. At press time Friday, THS' opponent and tournament site were unknown.

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