The No. 11 Lady Cougars came out hot in the first game of the 2021 calendar year, scoring 23 points while holding Oktaha to 13 in the first quarter. They were able to hold on to escape and remain undefeated with a 62-61 victory after running out of gas.
Head coach Rick Kirkhart said his team was winded in the second half in which Oktaha roared back from a six-point halftime deficit to head into the final stanza with a one-point advantage.
"It's always a tough game at Oktaha and I was expecting that even though we are ranked high in 3A," Kirkhart said. "We have players dealing with COVID-19."
Keys was led by Kylie Eubanks with 25 points and Sierra Winkler had a career-high 19. Winkler netted four 3-pointers and scored 18 of her points in the first half. She was on fire according to Kirkhart and he told his players to feed her whenever possible. Additionally, point guard Ashlynn Berry scored a season-low seven points, Ashlyn Radomski added nine and Allie Eubanks did not score to round out the starting lineup.
In the third quarter, Oktaha outscored Keys 14-7 and Kirkhart's niece, Rylie Walters, put in seven of her 20 points for the Tigers.
Next up for the Cougars is playing the Warner Tournament. They are scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m., but with COVID-19 looming the schedule is often altered.
Boy's battle back thanks to aggressive tough-nosed play: Following the close girl's game, the boy's matchup was tightly contested. After trailing by five at the half the Cougars battled back to win 49-45 over Oktaha.
Keys had balanced scoring as the five players who scored, all starters, had seven or more points. Riley Kimble led the Cougars with 13 points with three 3-pointers and tossed in the two deciding free throws with six seconds remaining in the game.
Throughout the game, Keys was getting good looks at the basket according to head coach Greg Barnes but never got on a roll. Its 15 point third quarter made up the difference as the Tigers only netted nine. In the first half, it allowed five 3-pointers due to rotation lapses. Barnes was able to tighten it up at the halftime break and Keys did not allow another 3-pointer.
In the second half Keys outscored Oktaha 24-18.
"We were more aggressive on the boards and that's something I knew we needed after our last game," Barnes said. "We got our post guys touches and even our guards posted up.
"Every guy contributed, getting rebounds. We were active and we got better."
The boy's also play in the Warner Tournament and will meet the winner of Warner and Ketchum Friday at 8 p.m.