No. 9 Rogers headed to state
BY MATT BAKER World Sports Writer
Sunday, March 06, 2011
3/06/11 at 5:40 AM
BROKEN ARROW - The hugs, handshakes and high-fives flew to Will Rogers coach Josh Berry for 15 minutes after the Ropers clinched their first trip to the state tournament since 1996 with Saturday's 52-45 win over McAlester.
From players. From coaches. From parents. From alumni.
"It was a feeling that can't really be explained," Berry said. "It was not only for us, but for the whole Rogers alums, all the Ropers for years that didn't get that support. Now they can wear that shirt proudly."
They can after Berry and his team completed Rogers' transformation from a program that won 25 games in a decade to one of Class 5A's top eight by knocking out the defending state champions in the area tournament consolation game at Tiger Field House.
No. 9 Rogers fell behind by five early in the second quarter but rallied. Senior forward Ashley Jones led the surge, scoring six of her game-high 19 points in that period.
"I just wanted that game," Jones said. "I wanted that game for everybody."
The Ropers pulled ahead at the end of the half with a buzzer-beating runner by Tahlor Washington, who finished with 14 points. The junior guard swished a 3-pointer moments into the second half to give Rogers the lead for good.
McAlester kept the game competitive, thanks to 13 points from Allison Eales and 13 more from Lashanda Green, one of the heroes of the Buffaloes' 2010 state title run. A three-point play by Kaleisha Johnson cut Rogers' lead to 34-32 with 7:28 left in the game.
But after struggling to close games for much of the year, the Ropers figured it out when it mattered most.
Jones grabbed 11 of her game-high 18 rebounds in the second half, and Rogers' defense kept McAlester from easy looks. Jamie Peel led the defensive charge with five steals.
"I think they finally turned that corner," Berry said. "I said that last game. They showed me that little spark of toughness and willpower."
And clutch shooting.
Rogers sank 10 of its final 12 free throws to put the game out of reach, and, seven years removed from back-to-back winless seasons, send the Ropers to state.
"Rogers hasn't had that winning mentality in a long time," Jones said.
It does now.
Rogers 52, McAlester 45
|McAlester||14||4||11||16|| - ||45|
|Rogers||9||11||12||20|| - ||52|
McAlester: Green 13, Eales 13; Johnson 9, Steidley 5, Means 3, Edwards 2.
Rogers: Jones 19, Washington 14, Peel 10, Carter 6, Doyle 3.
Matt Baker 918-581-8358