February 24 Season Finale

                                                                                           

Bixby Girls Compete To Final Buzzer In Regional

 By Ron Holt

Despite costly turnovers and missed free throws, Bixby High’s Lady Spartans competed to the final buzzer before seeing the season come to an end in a disappointing 53-50 loss to Norman North Thursday night (Feb. 23) in a Class 6A Regional Tournament opener at Booker T. Washington’s gymnasium.

Bixby ends the season with a 7-16 record while ninth-ranked Norman North, which improved to 14-7, plays Tulsa Washington for the regional title Saturday afternoon.

The Lady Spartans ended the season on an impressive note, playing aggressive defense, battling for rebounds and sinking clutch field goal attempts to remain in contention. The game wasn’t decided until a three-point field goal by Bixby’s Maddie Bittle rimmed out as the final buzzer sounded.

“I thought the girls gave us everything they had … they did everything I asked as far as staying with the plan,” Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas said afterward. “Sometimes you take that shot and it falls. It was a great shot Maddie took at the end … if she takes that shot 10 times, she’ll hit eight.

“I told them in the dressing room that I was proud of them and told the seniors that was a great way for them to go out … they went out scratching and clawing,” she added.

Bixby led 12-11 after one quarter and held a 20-19 lead at intermission before the Lady Timberwolves amped up their defense in the third quarter and scored off some turnovers to break a 28-all tie with a four-point run for a 32-28 lead with 2:08 showing.

BHS, which hit two of seven free throw attempts in the final 1:40 of the third stanza, trailed 35-31 going into the final quarter. Norman North made repeated runs at establishing a significant lead in the fourth quarter but the Lady Spartans countered every surge with a determined performance at crunch time.

“We played that soft man defense because they get their offense off the dribble drive and I thought the girls did a great job,” Coach Thomas said. “They beat us in the free throw war, we got to the line more but their percentage was better.”

Sophomore Dariann Myles swished a three-pointer to trim Bixby’s deficit to 35-34 and a minute later Bittle canned a trey to tie the game at 39-all with 6:03 left in the game.

North increased its lead to 44-39 before senior Kyndal Pirtle caught fire and drained a three-pointer with 4:02 left to get Bixby within 44-42. The Lady Timberwolves scored five straight points for a 49-42 lead with only 1:41 remaining.

Pirtle got free for another three-pointer with 1:18 left to trim the gap to four (49-45) and when she swished her fourth trey of the game with 42 seconds left the Lady Spartans trailed by 50-48.

North’s Kenna Sturgell hit one of two free throws with 32 seconds left for a 51-48 Timberwolves’ lead before Bittle raced through the NNHS defense for a layup with 17 seconds left to make it a 51-50 game.

Norman North got behind the Bixby defense for a layup off an inbound play with 14.9 seconds left for a 53-50 lead that withstood Bittle’s near miss three-pointer at the final horn.

Bittle led Bixby in scoring with 17 points while Pirtle, who sat out the first half after getting her third foul with a minute left in the first quarter, finished her career with 12 points. “Kyndal shot lights out after getting those three fouls early,” Coach Thomas said. “I thought she managed the floor well and stepped up and hit those huge three pointers late to keep us in the game.”

Junior Sarah Tyree scored eight points and was a dominating force on the boards, while Myles finished with five points, Cassidy Sloan four, Savanna Stout three and Sydney Page one.

Sturgell, the Lady Timberwolves’ leading scorer, led Norman North with 19 points.

Bixby loses three seniors – Pirtle, Sloan and Maddie Fuhr – but returns quality players for next season. The returnees, along with an unbeaten freshman class, make for an optimistic outlook.

“We have a good young group coming up so I think things are looking up for us,” Coach Thomas added. “For the younger kids this game was a good building point for next year.”

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