TAHLEQUAH — 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.
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.
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.
— Kolby Paxton, CNHI
Sequoyah 76. Keys 38
It was a walk in the park for Sequoyah on Saturday afternoon at The Place Where They Play. It was a living nightmare for Keys.
Class 3A No. 14 Sequoyah faced little resistance in a wire-to-wire, 76-38, laugher that helped Sequoyah secure a season sweep over its Cherokee County rivals.
“My challenge to the girls was to step up and play four quarters of basketball,” Sequoyah coach Larry Shade said. “And we got to see four quarters of basketball.”
In front of a near-capacity crowd, Courtney Jones — who nearly outscored Keys on her own — scored 28 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field. Audrey Ballou chipped in with 22 points and six rebounds and Loren Young was just short of perfect from the field, going 4 of 6 and finishing with 11 points.
“When those three are clicking, we’ve got three on the floor that can score, and it’s hard for defenses to collapse or double team or try a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two,” Shade said.
A night after hanging tough with 4A No. 2 Fort Gibson, Keys (9-8) fell behind early and never had a chance in this one. The Lady Cougars were behind 14-0 before Sydni Rainbolt buried a pair of free throws, and it didn’t get much better from that point.
Moments later, Keys’ Mylee Hewitt — the Lady Cougars’ leading scorer this season — was poked in the eye, sending her to the bench in pain for the rest of the first half. Without Hewitt and with Rainbolt in early foul trouble, Keys eventually headed to the halftime locker room down 41-11.
Sequoyah (9-5), after escaping Henryetta with a four-point win Friday night, racked up its easiest victory since obliterating Graham, 88-16, earlier this month.
“We haven’t played like that in a while,” Jones said. “We actually came out and played for four quarters, and kept our lead.”
Keys, led by Rainbolt’s eight points, finished the game shooting 17.4 percent (8 of 46) from the field to go along with 19 turnovers.
“When you don’t play defense, and you don’t rebound,” said Keys coach Mickey Duncan, “it’s not going to be a good day.”
— Ben Johnson