Every night the Claremore Lady Zebras take the floor, their No. 1 goal is to hold opponents under 40 points.
Under first-year head coach Stephanie Shaw, the Lady Zebras have accomplished that feat nine times in 22 games this season.
The key to their success — especially at the midway point of their season when they trailed Coweta by 15 points — the Class 5A No. 16 Lady Zebras (12-10) have relied on their feisty half-court pressure defense.
Led by junior point guard Kaleigh Cox and senior forward Ashlyn Glenn out front, as well as junior forward Anna McGuire and freshman center Bailey Steckline in the paint, the Lady Zebras pieced together their best defensive stand on Senior Night in a 57-16 win over Pryor.
According to Shaw, “Our defense against Pryor was the best it’s been in a while. We had a ton of tips and steals which led to easy baskets.”
Shaw, who was a feisty point guard during her high school career at Plainview (Texas), thrives on aggressive basketball.
On Thursday night, Shaw and the Lady Zebras open the Class 5A Regional Tournament against No. 14 Tulsa Memorial, who is led by the top scorer in the Tulsa Metro area in Faith Ihim.
The Chargers floor leader — Ihim — has 338 points in 14 games for a 24.1 points per game average.
When Ihim’s isn’t scoring, she’s crashing the boards for an average of 14 per game. On the year, Ihim’s has 196 rebounds.
The Chargers, though, enter Thursday’s game with an 11-10 record and winning three of their last four games going into regionals.
Game time for Thursday’s regional is 6:30 p.m. at Tulsa Edison High School.
The winner will advance to face Tulsa Edison or Pryor at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in the regional finals. The losers are eliminated.
“This team still feels like they have something to prove,” Shaw said after the Pryor game. “This journey is not over.”
The Chargers have scored 40 or more points in 14 of their 21 games, including a season-high 78 in a win over Class 4A Tulsa Central.
Away from the confines of their home gymnasium, the Chargers are 4-4 on the season. Also, the Chargers are 0-1 at Tulsa Edison this season, falling to Edison, 57-47.
“When we’re able to get in a defensive rhythm, that’s when we’re at our best,” Shaw said. “Forcing people into turnovers and not giving teams second-chance points.”
McGuire’s role will be to limit Ihim’s in the paint.
“Anna does all the little things that may not add up in the stat sheet. She’s like a ninja that flies out of nowhere to get the ball,” Shaw said.