By KOLBY PAXTON
B.J. Leach scored 26 points and hauled in six rebounds to lead the Sequoyah Indians past the visiting Keys Cougars 60-53 at The Place Where They Play on Saturday.
In a game that featured eight lead changes, the majority of the drama unfolded in the final frame, after Keys stormed back from a nine-point deficit during a third quarter that saw the Indians manage only six points.
"We’ve been a good third quarter team and struggled in the fourth," said Sequoyah head coach Jay Herrin. "We flipped it tonight. I told the kids after the game that I’m almost glad we lost the lead because I could see what they’re going to do in that situation. Instead of being up 10 points in the fourth quarter where the pressure is not on you. We had to hit some pressure free throws, we had to get some big rebounds, we had to hit some big shots, and we did it."
Leach hit 4-of-5 freebies down the stretch, and Trinton Herron, who struggled previously from the stripe, buried a pair of his own to push the lead to two possessions with under a minute to play.
"It was a good game," said Keys head coach Duane Jones. "I thought we battled well and gave ourselves a chance to win there at the end. It kind of came down to the way the refs were calling everything inside. I mean, it was both teams going to the line just about every time. Whoever got the lead at the end was going to end up having to make some free throws and they did."
Leach scored the first six points of the game for the Indians during a back and forth opening quarter. Sequoyah used an 11-2 run early in the second period to create some breathing room en route to a 31-24 halftime advantage.
"B.J.'s a heck of a player," said Herrin. "He’s a natural born leader. That’s his best asset. I’m really excited about that kid. His body hasn’t been agreeing with him. Last night he had a hip injury and we didnt even know if he was going to play today. Banged up and everything else, he got more minutes than he’s had all year and had a big game, so I’m really proud of the way he played."
Sans Payton Ragsdale, who missed his second straight game with 103-degree fever, the Cougars relied heavily on perimeter shooting, and managed to connect on just one of 15 long-range attempts.
"You definitely miss your big guy," Jones said of Ragsdale, who had been averaging a double-double in his last handful of games. "He was really on a roll, so it makes a big difference."
Trevor Eubanks led all scorers with 27, but misfired on all 12 shots he took from behind the arc. He also finished 9-of-25 from the field and 9-for-11 from the free throw stripe.
"We wanted to push him out just a little bit more and keep him from getting his feet set," said Herrin. "We were willing to give up the drive a little more to be able to run at him and discourage him from shooting threes. He got some decent looks and he would probably normally knock some of those down, but I’m glad he didn’t. He’s a heck of a player and he’s hard to control."
Next up for Sequoyah is a game at the Jay tournament on Thursday. Keys will be off until Saturday when it plays at Vian.
Sequoyah 60, Keys 53
Keys 12 12 13 16 -- 53
SHS 15 16 6 23 -- 60
Keys (10-7): Trevor Eubanks 27, Cody Cole 11, Chris Stayathome 8, Mason Turman 4, Chase Girdner 3.
Sequoyah (9-5): B.J. Leach 26, Caisen Green 7, Ryan Helsley 7, Jones 6, Johnston 5, Herron 4, McNac 3, Tucker 2.