By BEN JOHNSON
Tahlequah won its first two games of the season by 32 and 27 points. Yet, Friday's 55-32 hammering of Moore in the semifinals of the UKB Tiger Invitational at the TMAC might of been Tahlequah's best performance of the year thus far.
"As a team, I've liked every game we've played so far," said Tahlequah's Casey Beaston, who led all scorers with 17 points. "But I think we really connected (against Moore). And I'm going to have to say it was my best game so far, because I haven't had really good shooting."
Beaston, notching her highest point total since February of last year, shot 6 of 12 from the field and also grabbed seven rebounds.
She was also an instrumental piece in Tahlequah's ability to put the game away early.
With Moore leading 4-2 in the early stages of the contest, Beaston and the rest of the Lady Tigers closed the period on a 17-0 run. And after much of the same in the second quarter, Tahlequah laid claim to a 38-13 halftime edge.
"First half I thought the girls just dominated and didn't give them anything they wanted," Tahlequah coach Chad Walker said. "When you jump on someone like that, they kind of get down."
Providing a spark off the bench with the game still close was Tahlequah's Lindsay Wade. The freshman guard scored her only four points of the game in the opening minutes and helped spark the Lady Tigers to a 3-0 start to the season.
"We jumped into our soft press and allowed them to make some turnovers," Walker said. "We're athletic and I have smart kids playing for me; they understand what we're trying to do and when we're trying to do it."
While Beaston was the only Tahlequah player to score in double figures, Jhonett Cookson and Whitney Wright both came close with nine apiece.
Randee O'Donnell, who had six points, made her impact by shutting down Moore's leading scorer coming in, Amanda Patterson.
"Their best player wanted out of the game," Walker said. "Randee O'Donnell did an excellent job of defending her."
The Lady Tigers' shooting numbers weren't great at 27.9 percent (19 of 68) from the field. But blame that on Tahlequah's second half, which saw the Lady Tigers go 5 of 33 from the floor, after a 40 percent (14 of 35) first half.
"We have a goal of 60 points per game," Beaston said. "We keep almost reaching it, so we're going to get there."
Moore, who didn't have a single player score in double figures, tallied a better shooting percentage (12 of 38 for 31.6 percent), but 28 turnovers eliminated any chance of the Lady Lions surviving on Tahlequah's home floor.
"As long as we keep playing like this," Walker said, "win or lose, I can't complain."
With the win, Tahlequah advances to the tournament finals, where it'll take on either Class 6A No. 9 Muskogee or Rogers Heritage, out of Arkansas.
"I've faced Muskogee four times and haven't beaten them yet," Walker said. "Maybe we can change that."
Tahlequah 55, Moore 32
Mor 4 9 5 14 — 32
Tah 19 19 13 4 — 55
Moore (1-4): Caitlin Hall 9, Rose 6, Patterson 4, Shaver 4, Butler 3, Crump 2, Jones, Johnson 2.
Tahlequah (3-0): Casey Beaston 17, Jhonett Cookson 9, Whitney Wright 9, O'Donnell 6, Girdner 5, Wade 4, Hadley 3, Blevins 2.