Guy Ellis

Ridgerunners 48, Poteau 46

The GHS boys basketball team opened their 2008-09 season with a last second 48-46 win over Poteau in the first round of the Tahlequah Invitational Tuesday night.

Trailing by three with less than 14 seconds remaining in the game Ridgerunner Trent Winters landed a three point shot while being fouled to tie the game. The senior’s subsequent free throw put Grove ahead by one.

“Trent had some cold shooting,” said Ridgerunner Head Coach Doug Winters. “He’s our best free thrower but bricked two or three and missed a couple of shots (earlier) and I chewed on him a little. He sat and thought about it and went back in and hit the game winner. It’s a great feeling for him, especially since tomorrow is his birthday. So that’s a pretty good birthday memory.”

The Pirates final possession ended with a Braeden Downes steal. The Grove junior was fouled and hit a free throw from the stripe to ice the win.

The Ridgerunner win was noteworthy for two points. One, the team has only been practicing together as a complete unit for less than a week owing to the extended Grove football season. Two, the Grove squad had to dig themselves out of a 13-4 deficit after the first quarter.

“It’s the kids,” said Coach Winters. “They just didn’t say die. We got down big early and then just started chipping away. We had a bunch of people come off the bench and contribute here and there. It’s a tremendous team win and it’s a great way to kick off the season.”

The Ridgerunners showed an aggressive and physical, yet clean, attack Tuesday.

“At the first of the game we tried to play conservative, just hoping to get in the flow of the ball game,” said Coach Winters. “But when it was going away from us I said, what the heck, let’s go get ‘em. We were flying around and grabbing loose balls.

“We don’t want people to dictate to us, we want to dictate to people- we want them to have to adjust to us,” Coach Winters said.

Senior Tyler Spychalski paced the Ridgerunners with 19 points, including five from outside the three point line. Like the majority of the team the senior has only been in the gymnasium for a week after a fall full of football.

“Spychalski, bless his heart, he’s not in (basketball) shape yet, but he just kept plugging and plugging,” Coach Winters said. “Braeden Downes came off the bench and made some nice steals and assists.

“Ryan Miller got two fouls in the first thirty seconds of the ball game and that killed us but I think he only had one more after that so he played smart and was tremendous,” the coach added.

After the slow first quarter Grove put together a 12-7 run in the second, paced by treys from Spychalski and Downes, to trail 20-16 at the half.

Two free throws and a bucket by Miller brought the Ridgerunners even with Poteau, 26-26, in the third. A trey from senior Reid Harding kept Grove level until a basket from sophomore Jake Martin gave the Ridgerunners their first lead of the game, 31-29, with 45 seconds left in the frame.

The final eight minutes began with another Spychalski three-pointer to give Grove some breathing space.

The Pirates rallied back but a field goal from junior Josh Harjo and a free throw from Miller kept Grove up by one in the final three minutes.

An exchange of points between the teams saw Poteau go up 44-41. Spychalski answered with a three-pointer in the final minute to knot the scoreboard. Poteau responded with a bucket that set up the last second trey from Winters to put Grove over the top.

Winters finished with nine points, Downes scored eight, and Miller had five to round out the top Ridgerunner scorers.

Lady Red 55, Lady Pirates 52

Powered by a 21-point performance from senior Margaret Pogue the Grove Lady Red opened their season with a 55-52 win over the Poteau Lady Pirates Tuesday night in first round action at the Tahlequah Invitational.

“Anytime you can start off with a win its good,” said Grove Head Coach Richard Bassett. “We were 3-21 last year and we’re already one-third of the way of beating our record. I’m proud of them; the girls did a great job.”

The Lady Ridgerunners dominated the opening quarter of the game. Three-pointers from juniors Logan Cook and Kelsey Kerr, along with eight points from Pogue, set Grove up with a 14-9 edge.

The Lady Pirates battled back in the second half but a 7-0 run from Grove, fueled by a bucket from Kerr and a trey and deuce from Shae Scott, pushed the Lady Ridgerunner lead to ten, 24-14, midway through the frame.

Another trey from Cook placed Grove ahead by thirteen with a little over two minutes left in the opening half. But from there Poteau produced a run, capped by a half-court three-pointer at the buzzer, to make it a 28-22 Grove lead at the intermission.

The Lady Pirate comeback continued in the third and with 3:50 left in the stanza the scoreboard stood mirrored at 35.

A Lady Red timeout and regrouping led to baskets from Pogue and Kenzie Miller to put Grove back on top.

“We’ve got to do better (on defense),” said Bassett. “I told the girls at halftime and after the game, we’ve got to work on it more, moving our feet and breaking it down because we were kind of standing straight up and not being fundamental. It’s just fundamentals. We’ve got to do a better job so we can cut people off and keep them in front of us rather than being lazy and reaching and getting silly fouls. Free throws are what keep you in a game and we helped them (Poteau) out tonight.”

The Lady Red defense answered the bell in the final two minutes of the game as a pair of Poteau three-pointers moved the Lady Pirates to within one, 53-52.

Some handy board work, combined with two Pogue free-throws, turned away the final Poteau advances.

“Margaret had a good game,” Bassett said. “She could have had more points but she missed some chip-ins. But I told her, you’re not going to make them all, don’t get down, get back and play good defense and you’ll get your chances. She did a good job.”

Cook ended the game with nine points, all scored on three-pointers. Senior Stacia Sarwinski put in eight points while Scott added six.

Both the Lady Red and the Ridgerunners will return to Tahlequah Friday for semi-final rounds of the tournament. Each team will face off with the hosting Tahlequah squads. The Lady Red play at 4 o’clock while tip-off for the Ridgerunners is set for 8:30.

The Lady Tigers (2-1, #19 5A) opened their tournament with a 60-43 win over Tulsa McLain (0-3) while the Tigers (3-0, #8 5A) took a 58-34 decision over the Owasso JV unit.