Oral Roberts University guard Kevi Luper goes around two defenders in a 2009 game. The Cherokee Nation citizen became the first woman in NCAA history to lead the country in scoring and steals. PHOTO COURTESY OF ORU
Cherokee citizen makes NCAA history
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Oral Roberts University sophomore guard Kevi Luper made history this season by becoming the first player in NCAA women’s basketball to lead the nation in scoring and steals.
This past season the Cherokee Nation citizen from Adair averaged 23.7 points per game and 3.7 steals a game. As a freshman she led the nation in steals and finished sixth in scoring.
Luper was named to the Associated Press All-American team as an honorable mention selection for the second year in a row. She also grabbed the Summit League player of the year and defensive player of the year honors for the second straight season.
Luper was named to the league’s first team and was the player of the week three times. She became the league’s single season scoring leader with 806 points.
BY STAFF REPORTS
OKLAHOMA CITY – Judge Bernard Jones ruled on Dec. 11 to deny Oklahoma City Douglass High School’s request to replay the final minutes of their playoff game against Locust Grove High School.
Douglass filed the challenge in Oklahoma County District Court after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association voted against its request for a replay earlier this month.
Douglass lost to Locust Grove in a playoff game in November after a referee enforced a penalty incorrectly.
The court filing put a hold on part of the Class 3A playoffs until a decision could be made.
Locust Grove is slated to play Heritage Hall in Sapulpa given there is no stay granted by the state Supreme Court. Douglass was given time to file an appeal.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School senior and football quarterback Brayden Scott has been nominated for the national Mr. Football competition presented by VYPE magazine and State Farm.
Scott has attended Sequoyah Schools since the eighth grade and is expected to sign an official letter of intent in February to play football at the University of Memphis.
While at Sequoyah, Scott was the starting quarterback on Team USA, and he holds Sequoyah Schools’ records for the most passing yards, 6,497, and 99 total touchdowns. As of press time, he had four games left in the regular season.
One hundred players have been nominated for this honor. In October, that list was expected to be narrowed to 50 players with the top 20 getting an automatic advance to the semi-finals. Finalists will be selected in November.
Anyone can go online to vote for a player. The number of votes that each player receives determines the winner. Each person can vote once daily until the contest ends. The winner will be announced in January.
To vote for a player, visit <a href="http://www.ihigh.com/centraloklahoma/poll_3890.html" target="_blank">http://www.ihigh.com/centraloklahoma/poll_3890.html</a>.
BY KURT VOIGT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Even Elena Delle Donne couldn't stop Kansas' improbable NCAA tournament run.
Delle Donne scored 34 points, but Angel Goodrich answered with 27 of her own for the 11th-seeded Jayhawks, who rallied in the second half for a 70-64 win over the Blue Hens on Tuesday night.
Delaware's (31-2) only other loss this season was to No. 5 Maryland on Dec. 29. The school entered the tournament having never won an NCAA game before its opening-round win over Arkansas-Little Rock, in which Delle Donne scored 39 points in 30 minutes of action.
Despite the success, the abrupt and unexpected end to the season was still hard to take.
"This really has been a dream season and a dream team," Delle Donne said while fighting back tears. "The thing we're most disappointed about is just it being over, especially saying goodbye to our seniors.
"I'm just sorry for the seniors and to my teammates, because we had a lot of fun."
The Jayhawks (21-12), improbably, moved to the second weekend of the tournament for the first time since 1998. They'll face Tennessee on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
"When I was in the locker room, I told my teammates to pinch me," junior Aishah Sutherland said.
They advanced by rallying in the second half behind Goodrich, who fell one short of her career high in scoring. The junior was 12 of 21 from the field, 3 of 6 on 3-pointers, and also added six assists.
Goodrich had plenty of help from a Kansas defense that harassed Delle Donne throughout. The Jayhawks swarmed the 6-foot-5 junior, double- and triple-teaming her at times as they did their best to keep her from finding a comfort zone.
Delle Donne finished 9 of 18 from the field, 15 of 18 from the free throw line, and also had 10 rebounds. The effort, however, wasn't enough to overcome a lackluster defensive effort that allowed the Jayhawks to shoot 50 percent (30 of 60) from the field — 17 of 28 in the second half.
"Defensively, I definitely think we let up a lot," Delle Donne said. "Defense has been our whole thing all season, so when that was failing us, that's really why things went wrong tonight."
The Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 seemed unlikely when the team's leading scorer Carolyn Davis went down for the season with a knee injury on Feb. 12.
Kansas lost six of eight to end the regular season and was anything but a certainty to make the tournament, but the Jayhawks have made the most of their stay so far. It's the school's first tournament appearance in eight seasons under coach Bonnie Henrickson.
"We've got a good team, but we have to find ways to win," Henrickson said. "We have to prove to the committee that we belong. We got to prove to them that we can win without her, and Angel has carried us and Aishah has been really, really good too."
Delaware led 37-31 at halftime, but Kansas took control early in second half behind Natalie Knight. The freshman, who scored only five points in the Jayhawks opening-round win over Nebraska, was scoreless at halftime before scoring eight points in a row at one point to put Kansas up 50-43.
That capped a 19-6 run to open the second half for the Jayhawks, and it was part of a 13-0 run that put them up 53-43 after a free throw by Chelsea Gardner, who finished with 10 points. Sutherland added 12 points and 11 rebounds despite battling foul trouble for much of the game while guarding Delle Donne.
Delle Donne took control at that point with Delaware's season on the line. She scored 12 straight points, the last three on free throws after she was fouled on a 3-point attempt, to pull the Blue Hens within 59-57.
They were never able to get closer, however, as Goodrich answered with nine of Kansas' next 11 points. Her last during the stretch came after a steal and layup on the fast break to put the Jayhawks up 68-57 — their largest lead of the game.
Delaware was unable to get closer than six points after that. "We will be back," Blue Hens coach Tina Martin said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
BY KURT VOIGT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Nebraska's return to the NCAA tournament was a short one.
The sixth-seeded Huskers suffered through a dismal shooting performance and fell 57-49 to former Big 12 rival and 11th-seeded Kansas in the first round of the Des Moines Regional on Sunday.
Nebraska (24-9), which left the Big 12 for the Big Ten after last season, was making its return to the tournament after a one-year absence. The school had performed well in reaching the Big Ten Tournament championship game against Purdue, but it hadn't played since that double-overtime loss to the Boilermakers on March 4.
The Huskers looked rusty, shooting 20 of 61 (33 percent) from the field.
Nebraska's top two scorers, Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore, were a combined 9 of 39 from the field — including 0 of 14 on 3-pointers. The Huskers were 1 of 19 on 3-pointers overall, with Emily Cady connecting on the team's only shot from behind the arc.
"Lindsey makes those shots on most days," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "We don't go 1 for 19. We got a lot of looks at the basket. We had open 3s. We had open shots, and we just didn't make them. We couldn't knock them out."
Kaitlyn Burke led the Huskers with 14 points and was one of four players in double figures, with Cady finishing with 10. Moore had 12 on 5-of-21 shooting, while Hooper had 11 and was 4 of 18 from the field, including 0 of 8 on 3-pointers.
"We had open looks but we had trouble making them," Burke said. "We're capable, but we just didn't today."
Angel Goodrich, meanwhile, made sure Kansas (20-12) stuck around for a while in its long-awaited return to the NCAA tournament.
Goodrich scored 20 points to lead the Jayhawks to their first tournament win since 1999. The appearance was the school's first since 2000 — and its first in eight seasons under coach Bonnie Henrickson.
"I've been blessed by an administration that supports what we've been trying to do," Henrickson said. "They recognize what we're trying to do and that we're about to turn the corner.
"They believe in what we're doing and our coaches, our players, our staff and our team."
The performance also offered a bit of relief after what had been a rough last month for Kansas, which narrowly made the tournament after losing six of its final eight games.
Leading scorer Carolyn Davis injured her knee and was lost for the season in a loss at Kansas State on Feb. 12, and the Jayhawks' postseason fate was anything but certain after a first-round loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Conference tournament.
Goodrich picked up the slack on Sunday, and she had plenty of help from in the form of 15 points and 16 rebounds from Chelsea Gardner.
"I came out and was just excited about this game," Gardner said.
Kansas moves on to face third-seeded Delaware and the nation's leading scorer, Elena Delle Donne, in the second round on Tuesday.
Kansas didn't fare much better from the field than the Huskers, finishing 25 of 66 (38 percent) from the field. However, the Jayhawks made the plays they needed to in the final minutes after Nebraska cut the lead to 46-42 after a pair of free throws by Cady.
The Huskers trailed 52-47 after Cady's 3-pointer, and they appeared to have the momentum after a turnovers by the Jayhawks with 1:19 remaining.
Nebraska followed with a turnover of its own on the other end, one of 15 in the game, and Goodrich responded with a drive and basket on the other end to put Kansas up 54-47.
She followed moments later with a pair of free throws, and Gardner added the final free throw to secure the Jayhawks' first NCAA tournament win since defeating Marquette in the first round in 1999.
Henrickson took over Kansas in 2004 and had led the school to the WNIT five times in her seven seasons before this one, but she had never taken the Jayhawks to the NCAAs before this year. "We said, 'Raise your hand if you made a play,'" Henrickson said, and everyone in the locker room raised a hand. "That's what this time of year is about."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
OKLAHOMA CITY – From childhood aspirations of becoming a professional wrestler to years of competing in local Toughman Contests, one Cherokee Nation citizen has reached her goal of becoming a professional heavyweight boxer.
Paula Soap, 43, said she always wanted to fight professionally, so she began entering area Toughman Contests.
“I started in Toughman in 2001,” she said. “I continued on there, and they told me I couldn’t fight anymore because I won too many in Muskogee. That was my limit from what they said.”
With area contests closed to her, she competed in the Toughman World Championships, where she finished eighth out of 32 competitors.
Despite her success with a record of 5-1 and world championship appearance, Soap never formally trained in the sweet science of boxing. Melissa Drywater, trainer and owner of Dawg Pound Fight Academy in Tahlequah, said Soap’s success at the Toughman Contests is unheard of with no formal training.
“I met Paula about two years ago,” Drywater said. “She told me she was a Toughman fighter, so I started working with here. She was a brawler, and she is a tough woman for sure. But I saw that she had potential. She had a lot of potential and raw talent. She was just an undeveloped fighter.”
Since beginning training, Drywater has turned Soap into a more polished boxer.
“It’s so rewarding for me as her trainer to get to work with her and watch her develop from when she was just a Toughman brawler,” Drywater said. “Now, she’s a professional boxer. It’s amazing to see the development over the months in this past year.”
Soap said training has been hard and she was naïve about it in the beginning.
“I thought it would be easy, but training to be a boxer is a lot of cardio and lots of hard work,” she said. “I never thought it would be that way. I just went in and fought. That’s all I ever did.”
The development Soap has shown has made it difficult to book professional fights. Within the last several months, opponents have cancelled scheduled bouts late leaving no time to find a replacement.
It’s been discouraging for Soap to keep training for fights that never materialize, but she keeps a positive attitude.
“I love fighting,” she said. “I want my name to be out there as a pro fighter. That’s all I ever wanted to be is a pro fighter.”
Her hard work and dedication paid off on Feb. 18 at Remington Park in Oklahoma City as she made her professional boxing debut, facing Jenea Brant of Saint Joseph, Mo.
Soap said she was nervous going into the fight and was pacing the floor a lot, but those nerves settled once she stepped into the ring.
“They (nerves) just go away,” she said. “It’s always been that way. I don’t know what it is, but once you step in that ring, they just go away.”
The match was scheduled for four, two-minute rounds. However, Soap only needed 1 minute, 45 seconds in the first round to win with a knockout.
With her first pro fight out of the way, Soap said she would work harder and fight as long as she can.
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs will open its horse racing season on March 5 and run it through May 19.
Coming off its most successful year in five years of operation, WRD officials said they believe they have a new equation to make 2012 even better.
The thoroughbred spring meet will run at 12:30 p.m. every Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Each race day features 10 races.
In addition to a stakes schedule that features two new races bringing the total to eight, racing officials moved four of the stakes to Mondays and Tuesdays to benefit from a bigger worldwide simulcast audience.
“Our simulcast signal goes through the roof on weekdays,” Kelly Cathey, Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs racing secretary, said. “We are up to nearly 700 locations showing our races, including tracks in Europe, Mexico and Canada. The more tracks that show our races, the bigger the handle, which means more money for the horsemen and more money for us to reinvest into our track.”
Stakes races begin on April 9, with the sixth running of the Clem McSpadden Memorial Route 66 Stakes and the Wilma Mankiller Memorial Stakes. April 23-24 features the fourth running of the Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs Classic Distaff Sprint and the TRAO Classic Sprint.
The second running of the Oklahoma Stallion Colts and Geldings Division Stakes and the Oklahoma Stallion Fillies Division Stakes run on May 5. Closing out the spring meet on May 19 are the inaugural Cherokee Nation Classic Cup and the RPDC Classic Distaff.
Inclement weather had postponed the start of the racing meet the last few years, so track officials chose to schedule this year’s start date in March. The extra time and lack of snow have provided workers an opportunity to prepare the track without being rushed or forced to wait for snow to melt.
“The horsemen say the track is in outstanding condition,” Cathey said. “The track is in the best shape it’s ever been since we opened. The mild winter has played a part, but Jake Wilson, our track superintendent, and all his guys have done a phenomenal job getting it ready for the spring meet.”
Will Rogers Downs earned more than $16 million in live racing, with $14 million coming in the spring. During the spring meet, 12 of 32 race days surpassed $500,000 in total wagering. On April 4, the track had a record one-day total of $958,163.
Cathey said with some of the stakes races moving to weekdays, this year could see multiple days that surpass last year’s one-day record total.
“If everything goes our way, I believe we’ll break $1 million more than once,” Cathey said. “We have a strong competitive field of horses and jockeys that are going to make our races really entertaining.”
Will Rogers Downs is located three miles east of Claremore on Highway 20. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeestarrewards.com" target="_blank">cherokeestarrewards.com</a> or call 918-283-8800.