Tuesday night at the Stratford gym, the Konawa girls and the Stratford boys showed a standing-room-only crowd how the area’s last two unbeaten teams got to be the area’s last two unbeaten teams.
Konawa (No. 14 in Class 2A) forced 16 turnovers in racing to a 26-0 lead after one quarter and cruised past Stratford, 61-27, in the girls contest to improve to 8-0. In the nightcap, the host Bulldogs (No. 6 in 2A) broke open a tight game with a dominant second-half performance at both ends of the floor and improved to 6-0 with a surprisingly easy 74-49 victory over a Konawa squad that earlier in the day had cracked the 2A top 20 for the first time this season.
Stratford 74, Konawa 49
Konawa (6-2) trimmed a 24-10 deficit after one quarter to 32-29 at intermission when sophomore point guard Alex Yellowfish drained a 3-pointer off an assist from Josh Kirkwood with just three seconds left in the half. But the second half was all Stratford.
“In the second quarter, we made some shots; in the second half we didn’t,” Konawa coach Gordon Garner said after seeing the Tigers connect on seven of their 12 shots in the second period and just 6-of-26 after the break. “You have to give Stratford credit, they did what we needed to do — they took it to the rim.”
Dalen Qualls hit a long 3-pointer and added a fast-break layup in the first 33 seconds of the third quarter to extend the Bulldog lead to eight. Then, after Konawa center Cody Stinnett hit two baskets — both off assists from Yellowfish — in a span of 43 seconds to make it a four-point game for the final time at the 4:58 mark, the Tigers didn’t score again for the next 4:37.
By the time Devin Terry finally snapped Konawa’s scoring drought with a 3-pointer just 21 seconds before the period was over, Stratford’s lead had swelled to 52-33.
Matthew Knight, the Bulldogs’ senior center, started the pivotal run with a one-hander in the lane less than 30 seconds after Stinnett’s second bucket, and he was one of five different players to score for Stratford during the 15-0 run that put the game away.
Randy Brown drove the lane and hit a point-blank jumper in transition with 3:13 left in the quarter to again make it an eight-point game (41-33); Knight was fouled while driving the lane on a beautiful left-handed layup and Brown added two free throws in a four-point possession kept alive by an offensive rebound from Tommy Lawson when Knight missed his free throw; Knight contributed a nice assist on Lawson’s drive down the lane for a layup at the 1:52 mark that made it 47-33, and Qualls grabbed a rebound and fed Cody Purgason for layup and, ultimately, a three-point play when Purgason was fouled on his drive to basket.
Qualls — who finished with 26 points to lead a balanced Stratford attack and added seven assists and five rebounds — capped the spurt with a pull-up 17-footer with 45 seconds left in the quarter, then he answered Terry’s 3-pointer from the corner with a trey of his just eight seconds before the period ended to send the Bulldogs to the final eight minutes with a 55-36 lead.
“We didn’t change a darn thing,” said veteran Stratford coach Mark Qualls, whose club was 9-of-13 from the field in the third quarter after going 2-for-11 in the second. “(Konawa) went to a triangle-and-two in the second quarter that was designed to stop Dalen and Matthew, and the other guys were just standing around watching. In the third quarter, everybody got moving. I think we got in a groove in the second half.”
Stratford also started the night red-hot, going 10-for-18 in the opening period (including two 3-pointers from Qualls and one apiece from Knight and Purgason) and led 24-8 after Purgason’s trey off an assist from Qualls with 55 seconds left.
The Bulldogs still led by 13 (28-15) after Qualls drove the lane and hit a jumper 5:37 before intermission, but Stratford closed the half on an impressive 19-4 run that featured three 3-pointers from Yellowfish and a conventional three-point play from Terry.
“You never know how Yellowfish is going to shoot the 3, but he can really hurt you driving to the basket,” Qualls said. “We didn’t give him the 3s in the third quarter and we started pressing. That’s when the game turned around.”
Stratford finished a solid 27-for-57 from the field while Konawa was 17-for-49 overall and just 11-for-38 in the first, third and fourth quarters combined. Knight scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots, while Lawson — playing in just his third game after helping the Bulldog football team to a runner-up finish in Class A this fall — finished with nine points (seven in the second half), 10 rebounds (eight in the first half), three steals and two assists. Purgason added eight points on 3-of-4 shooting.
“I was surprised by the score, but our guys are tough to beat here,” said Mark Qualls, whose club will return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 30, against defending Class 5A champion Tulsa Washington in the Tournament of Champions in Tulsa. “This was our best game of the year without a doubt. It’s exciting to be winning and know we still have a lot of room to improve.”
Yellowfish led Konawa with 18 points, but Stratford’s defense limited him to four shots, one field goal and seven points outside the second quarter. Terry had a double-double — 12 points, 10 rebounds — but hit just 4-of-16 shots, and Stinnett had his second double-digit performance in row with 12 points (on 6-of-10 shooting) and five rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
“We saw a lot of things tonight we can get better at,” Garner said. “In the second half we wanted to play 30 feet from the basket. I thought we were passive and settled for 3-point shots.”
Konawa 61, Stratford 27
The Lady Tigers opened the game with one of the most complete quarters by a Konawa team in the six-year Garner era. Besides hitting 8-of-15 shots and 9-of-11 free throws, they forced 16 turnovers and limited Stratford to just three field goal attempts.
Although their starters were all on the bench midway through the second quarter, the Lady Tigers went on to build a 42-7 halftime lead. Stratford had just one basket in 10 tries before intermission — a turnaround by Lacey Hatter with 3:28 left in the second quarter that made it 38-5 — and finished the game 8-for-31, with half of those baskets coming against the Konawa reserves in the fourth quarter.
Senior Chelsea Gillum and Nikki Nail combined for 25 points (14 by Gillum) despite playing only about 12 minutes apiece, and Nail had six of Konawa’s 11 steals; another senior, Courtney Capps, added nine points on 4-of-4 shooting and dished out a game-high five assists (all in the first half); and sophomore center Allison Yellowfish scored 14 points off the bench over the final three quarters.
Konawa hit 21-of-39 field goals and 18-of-24 free throws, and the Lady Tigers registered assists on 17 of their 21 baskets.
Deamber Barrett finished with six points and Cheyenne Weast added five off the bench to pace Stratford (2-4).