Defense driving Muskogee girls' basketball success
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
2/05/13 at 3:52 AM
Playing defense has been a high priority for the Muskogee High girls basketball team - even if the numbers might suggest otherwise.
The Roughers lead Class 6A in scoring, averaging 65.4 points per game. But they are only 27th among 32 teams in scoring defense, allowing 51.9 points per game.
That may seem a contradiction for a team that prides itself on stopping opponents, but it's really more about how the Roughers choose to play.
They use rebounding and defensive quickness to create transition opportunities - and extreme athleticism to cash in on them.
Senior guards Kelsey McClure and Alexus Wilson, an Oral Roberts University signee, are low-flying jets who have almost 100 steals between them while averaging 22.2 and 13.6 points.
Head coach Doyle Rowland preaches constantly about the importance of defense. "If I know how to stop people, I have a chance of beating anybody," he says.
The Roughers are beating almost everybody lately. They've won 11 straight games, sit atop the Frontier Conference standings for the first time all season, and will take one of the highest seeds into postseason play, which opens in 16 days.
Not bad for a team that lost key inside personnel (Chelsie Keys, Deanna Moore and Daryl Epps) from last year's 20-7 state-quarterfinal team.
"In some areas we're better than last year, and in other areas we're not," Rowland said. "We're probably better offensively, but we could dominate both inside and outside last year."
The post game was more of a concern before Mari Jackson became eligible. The 5-foot-10 senior moved from Chicago last year to live with her sister. She leads the team with 7.4 rebounds per game while averaging 9.1 points.
"She's the sleeper in the bunch," Rowland said. "She's not a true post player, but she does what it takes for us to compete and be successful."
McClure and her teammates buy into Rowland's passion for defense.
"It has to be done, and that's why we never run any offense in practice until the end," she said. "Until then, it's all about blocking out and closing out."
The defense got better when 5-foot-9 Aaliyah Wilson, Alexus' younger sister, started playing regularly last month, mostly off the bench.
The precocious freshman can guard the other team's best offensive player or clog the passing lanes with her long arms. She averages 8.5 points, four rebounds and almost two steals per game.
Original Print Headline: Defense driving Muskogee
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