By Nick Hampton
Phoenix Staff Reports
WAGONER — Just when it looked like a lost cause, senior Byron Adams put the Wagoner Bulldogs on his back and made a game of it.
But in the end, the Keys Cougars used the eagle-eyed free-throw shooting of Trevor Eubanks to hold off the upset-minded Bulldogs for a 67-60 victory Tuesday night at the Hughes Event Center.
The Cougars, ranked seventh in Class 3A by Okrankings.com, moved their record to 5-2 on the season while Wagoner is now 0-2.
Keys used the strong inside play of Payton Ragsdale, who tallied 14 of his 23 points, to vault to a 37-22 halftime advantage. Keys maintained the double-digit lead through the first three minutes of the third quarter when Wagoner began its comeback.
Adams, who had 22 points in the game, along with his teammates rattled off six unanswered points while doing a defensive job of keeping the ball away from Ragsdale, and closed the gap to five points at 45-40. But the Cougars scored nine of the final 12 points in the quarter to own a 54-43 lead starting the final stanza.
Using an aggressive man-to-man defense and some full court pressure, the Bulldogs forced Keys into five turnovers in the final quarter and got to within five points at 62-57 with just under two minutes to play.
Forced into a fouling situation, Wagoner picked the wrong man to send to the line as Eubanks calmly hit five of six free throws down the stretch to ice the victory. Last year’s runner-up for All-Phoenix MVP, Eubanks was definitely the man that coach Duane Jones wanted at the line.
“He’s played in the clutch a lot for us and it’s nice to have a guy you can depend on in those situations,” Jones said.
On the night Eubanks was 12-of-13 from the charity line and finished with 23 points.
Despite the big lead at halftime, Jones warned his youngsters that the Bulldogs weren’t just going to go away.
“We told the kids they’d come back and and they did and I was proud of the way we kept our composure in the last five minutes,” said Jones.
Keys 53, Wagoner 40
Patience paid off the Lady Cougars on the night as they played a slowed down passing game to defeat Wagoner.
“Right now we have five games in nine nights so with conditioning being a concern early in the season, tonight was just trying to work the basketball and not go 900 miles an hour,” said a victorious coach Mickey Duncan.
After a close first quarter that saw Keys up 15-11, the Lady Cougars (3-3) went on a 7-2 run to take a 10-point lead and were up 26-15 at the half.
Wagoner (0-2) opened the third quarter with seven unanswered points to close to 26-22, but that would be as close as they would get as Keys went on a 10-4 run to end the third quarter with 36-26 lead.
The Lady Cougars’ lone returning starter Mylee Hewitt led all scorers with 20 points and teammate Sydney Rainbolt contributed 12. Wagoner’s lone player in double figures was Kristen Robbins with 14.