CATOOSA — Claremore's Lady Zebras have claimed a berth at the state tournament a record 11 straight times. Coach Mark Campbell and his girls took another step toward making it an even dozen Thursday night.
Displaying a remarkable defensive team effort, No. 6 Claremore (20-5) stopped No. 11 Bishop Kelley (15-9), 35-21 in the first game of the Class 5A Area Tournament losers' bracket.
In the Area championship game, No. 2 Tulsa Memorial outlasted No. 4 Tulsa Washington, 43-39, to advance directly to next week's state pairings. Claremore and Washington will meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with the winner also moving on. The defeat ended the season for Kelley.
If the Lady Zebras realized they were facing elimination Thursday against Kelley, there were no visible signs. Except for one instance at the end of the first quarter, Claremore held the upper hand.
While Claremore was held below its normal season scoring, the red and white defense took up a bunch of slack. The Lady Zebras limited the Comets to one 3-point basket out of 10 attempts. Kelley shot 28 times from inside the circle and made nine. At the same time Claremore also had nine 2-point field goals while going 0-for-5 with trey range shots.
During the final three quarters the Zebra defense allowed only 12 points.
The game was decided at the free throw line. As the 14-point final score indicates, Claremore had a huge edge. Thanks to 21 Kelley fouls, the Zebras stepped to the line and hit 17 of 23 bonus points.
At the same time Claremore was whistled for a mere six fouls. No Zebra had more than one called on her. Only the very first one came as Kelley was trying to shoot the ball. Julanne Pelori missed both her shots in the first quarter. Her team never had another opportunity from the line.
Jordan Schultz posted a double-double with game highs 13 points and 11 rebounds. Sierra Barnwell hit her first six free throws while directing the majority of the ball handling. She was next in line with eight points.