Sequoyah’s Lexy Keys hears about it. She knows the legend — although, she says, she never saw it live.
Angel Goodrich led the Lady Indians to three state titles in four seasons before going on to a standout career at the University of Kansas, then on to the WNBA where she played for multiple teams.
On Wednesday, Keys and her teammates boarded the bus for Oklahoma City where on Thursday, they’ll begin a quest for another third title in four seasons in her senior season.
The comparisons don’t end there.
Goodrich was a four-time All-Phoenix MVP. Keys has won it three consecutive times. She is also Division I bound, headed to Texas-Arlington to continue her basketball career.
One way or the other, her story in the Sequoyah annals will come to an end this weekend. That, she says, is heavy on her mind.
“I’ve thought it a lot and I just tell myself to live in the moment, day by day,” she said. “Not think about how, I mean obviously we want to go win a championship and everyone is excited about that, but just to go day by day and soak everything in. It’s just been such a big part of our lives and it’s sad to think it’s almost done.”
No. 1 Sequoyah (26-1) begins those moments with a battle against No. 8 Comanche (25-5) at 3:30 p.m. in the Big House, otherwise known as Jim Norick Arena, on the State Fairgrounds.
It’s been quite the run for the 5-foot-9 point guard who averages 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, most of that coming in 2 1/2 to three quarters of a schedule littered with lopsided outcomes. But it’s also been a bumpy one.
A re-aggravated thumb injury in last year’s quarterfinals required a protective bandage in the semifinal contest last year. With her less than 100 percent, Sequoyah was upended by Christian Heritage by three points, 51-48. Adair, who Sequoyah beat three times during the year, twice by double digits, then beat Christian Heritage 47-35 for the title.
This was to be her team, though — a point Larry Callison made before he decided to retire this past spring and subsequently hand over the reins to Justin Brown from Locust Grove. That point was made clear in a practice in November, when Keys came down wrong and injured a knee — taking one for the team, literally.
A teammate was going for a layup and was falling to the floor. She caught her enough to deflect the fall, but went down herself even worse.
“It looked like she was going to hit her head on the court and I didn’t want that,” she said.
Her injury turned out to be a hyperextension. She sat out part of some scrimmages and games and slowly worked her way back.
“She was limping off the floor and in your mind you’re going through all the nightmare scenarios,” said Brown. “What she missed, she didn’t want to miss. She’s not a kid who will come to practice and sit on her thumbs. She was out there coaching with me.”
That solidified what Brown saw over the summer. Callison’s assessment was spot on.
“By the end of the summer team camps, there was no doubt whose team this was. Just the way she handled herself on the floor, as a coach on the floor, just being an extension of the staff,” Brown said. “It’s really neat to have a kid like that who wants to do that and do it the right way. Some kids in that situation will tear other kids down. She’s critical but she’s also as positive whenever possible. She commands attention and respect from her teammates.”
Keys always had it in her — a coach’s kid herself, with both her parents coaching at various levels or sports while she was growing up. And she knew how business should run — just when you’ve got seniors ahead of you on the way through school, there’s the tendency to not overstep rank.
“I’ve had a role change every year, but this is definitely the biggest one,” she said. “I also think we’re more deep and balanced than we’ve been. We’ll have five girls on the bench at any time that can go score and we’re as good as a team defensively as we’ve been. We’re hard to beat on defense.”
And she’s hard to keep down.
In the regional round, just a couple minutes into a game, Keys went down hard on a shoulder. She left the game and was seen at an area emergency room.
“It scared me because I heard popping sounds, and that along with just my adrenaline flow kind of freaked me out,” she said.
Turns out it was just a deep bone bruise and inflammation. She had 12 in limited time in her team’s next game, a 65-30 win over Keys in the regional title game, then had 19 points and five steals in the area championship win, 56-31 over Kellyville.
It’ll impact her preparation Thursday.
“We’re taping both ankles, we’re wearing knee braces, we’ve got shoulder tape on — we joke with her that she’s more tape than anything but she’s just a tough kid,” Brown said. “She’d play with one arm. She’s going to fight to do whatever she has to do help her team win. That’s just her.”
Keys doesn’t have any superstitions, or anything related to her often tough luck. But the Lady Indians won’t be without some adjustments in that category this week.
“Every year we’ve eaten at the same exact places every day,” she said. “Some people are superstitious about it, so this year we’re changing that up because it didn’t go our way last year.”
Where to eat, she says, will be forthcoming.
She’ll be a team player on that one.