Fort Gibson simply had too much muscle for Mount St. Mary.
The Lady Tigers won their second state championship in three years, rallying from six-point halftime deficit to defeat the Lady Rockets, 58-43, in the Class 4A title game Saturday night at State Fair Arena.
St. Mary opened the game with three consecutive 3-pointers and hit 6-of-12 in the first half to open 25-19 lead at halftime, but the Lady Rockets were only 4-of-15 from 3-point range in the second half.
“You live by the three, sometimes you die by it,” said St. Mary coach Rory Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Fort Gibson opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run, getting two quick buckets by its 5-10 post player Brooke Palmer.
“We knew we had to win inside the paint,” Palmer said.
The Lady Rockets couldn't keep Palmer out of the paint in the second half, scoring 14 of her game-high 21 points in the second half. She also had 13 rebounds in the game.
“We got back on our heels a little bit,” Hamilton said. “We gave up 39 points in the second half. A lot of offensive rebounds we got in the first half we didn't get in the second half.”
Fort Gibson rolled in the second half, outscoring St. Mary 39-18. Lady Tigers coach Jerry Walker counted on the Lady Rockets to get tired in the second half and start missing more shots from long range.
“That's no secret what we were trying to do, pound it inside,” Walker said. “We knew they weren't deep off the bench. We felt we had a size advantage, a strength advantage.”
Aimee Rischard led the Lady Rockets with 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Allie Glover had 12 points while Savannah Gray added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Fort Gibson, which dominated the boards.
The Lady Tigers more than doubled St. Mary in rebounding, 41-18.
“That was a key,” Palmer said. “We knew they crashed the boards really hard and we knew we had to scrap harder than they did.”
Fort Gibson (29-1) was making its ninth consecutive trip to the state tourney and third straight to the championship game. The Lady Tigers won the title in 2011 and were runners-up last year.
“We have a saying up in our locker room, ‘tradition never graduates,'” Walker said. “Our expectations don't change, players change.”
St. Mary (25-6) was playing in its first state championship game and making only its second appearance in the tournament.
But next season looks bright for the Lady Rockets as they did not have a senior in the starting lineup.
“On paper, it looks good,” Hamilton said. “It's a matter of preparing and trying to get back.”