On the power of an 18 to four third quarter performance the Grove Ridgerunners overcame a first half deficit to claim a 57-43 victory Friday night over the Catoosa Indians in 4A regional action at Inola.
The win propels the Grove team into the Championship Game of the regional winners’ bracket and guarantees the squad a trip to the 4A area tournament this week at Coweta.
The Ridgerunners will face Fort Gibson today (Saturday) in the Championship Game on the Tigers’ home court.
Any thoughts of a trip to the area tournament were a long way off for GHS at the intermission. The Ridgerunners found themselves in a 23-17 hole at the half.
“We played so tight in the first half,” said Grove Head Coach Doug Winters. “We couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. The team took a butt-chewing at the half; I challenged the senior class. It was all about them.”
The Ridgerunners responded in the third with a dominating defensive performance and a full-throttle offensive attack.
Senior Trent Winters and sophomore Buck Maples led the way in the frame with six points each. Seniors Tyler Spychalski and Ryan Miller added to the mix and when the dust settled on the eight minutes the Ridgerunners were holding a 35-27 lead.
“Buck Maples just played out of his mind in the second half,” Coach Winters said. “He was everywhere; blocking shots, making shots.”
Catoosa managed 16 points in the fourth quarter but the Ridgerunners answered with 22 of their own, eight coming courtesy of Spychalski, to seal the win.
“Spychalski played like a senior point guard leader,” Coach Winters said about the fourth quarter. “Everybody was freaking out late. I told the team this pressure would be intense. And we folded a little bit late, just throwing balls away and playing like we were behind by 20. Spychalski showed leadership to go get the ball and do what we had to do.
“I thought Trent (Winters) did a great job at the foul line,” the coach added. “He put some nails in the coffin.”
The Ridgerunners ended the night with three players in double digit scoring. Spychalski and Winters posted 14 each while Miller added 12. Maples rounded out the GHS high scorers with eight points.
Thursday’s result marked the third consecutive win for the Ridgerunners and was a just reward for a team that has fought hard through some adversity this season yet never quit working hard.
“These kids are wonderful,” Coach Winters said. “For all the roadblocks we’ve had this year tonight is a great feeling for those kids.
“Trent (Winters) came up to me in the last seconds there and told me, ‘We were not gonna lose.’ They were determined tonight,” Winters said.