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Class 4A girls: Fort Gibson holds off Vinita to make fourth straight championship game

by Jacob Unruh Modified: March 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm •  Published: March 14, 2014

Fort Gibson has a chance to make history.

The top-ranked Tigers outlasted No. 7 Vinita 45-38 Friday afternoon at State Fair Arena to advance to the Class 4A championship game for the fourth straight season.

And if Ft. Gibson wins, it’ll be the first time in the 5-on-5 era that a Class 4A girls team has repeated as champion.

“I’ve always dreamed watching my sisters growing up of going to the states finals, so that’s been my goal for four years,” senior Savannah Gray said. “We just try our hardest, no matter who the team is we’re playing. We try to be the toughest team on and off the court.”

The Tigers will face the winner of Mount St. Mary and Anadarko on Saturday. And both are familiar foes for the Tigers.

They beat Mount St. Mary last season to win the championship and lost to Anadarko in 2012 in the title game.

A win Saturday, gives Ft. Gibson back-to-back titles, a first in the class since Mustang accomplished that in 1981.

“It comes down to one game there,” Ft. Gibson coach Jerry Walker said. “I’m proud of our kids. We won it last year and we’ve got a chance to defend it.

“In the years past, people keep knocking our record and saying we don’t play anybody until we get here. We’re the same team. We don’t always win pretty, we don’t always win by 30, we don’t score 80 but we can play defense.”

Friday, Ft. Gibson used that stifling defense in the second quarter to take a 19-10 lead, limiting the Hornets to just four points and holding them to 11 percent shooting overall in the half.

And the Tigers leaned heavily on Gray, who finished with just five points but led the team with 12 rebounds. Ft. Gibson out-rebounded Vinita 45-38.

“She’s a warrior,” Walker said about Gray. “She’s Xena the Warrior Princess, minus the spear. She gets almost every rebound on the back side, and what she doesn’t get I get on her rear for because I just expect it.”

Taylor Steinhoff led Vinita with 12 points and six rebounds. The Hornets, though, struggled to make up the gap from the second quarter.

The Tigers led by as many as 11 points in the second half before Vinita got within three with 1:22 remaining on Baylee Mendell’s 3-pointer.

Desiree Phipps, who finished with 13 points despite foul trouble, closed it out with free throws the rest of the way to clinch a chance for the Tigers’ third title in four years.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Walker said. “My girls are just unbelievable. My coaching staff: unbelievable.”

by Jacob Unruh
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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