WARNER — Fouls, youth and turnovers were a recipe for trouble as the Warner Lady Eagles were unable to win the championship of their own Warner Eagle Classic, falling to the unbeaten Keys Lady Cougars 55-44 at the Warner Event Center Saturday night.
It was a battle of top 20 teams with the Lady Eagles ranked No. 16 in Class 2A and Keys ranked No. 11 in 3A. Keys used a pestering zone defense to force 25 Warner turnovers while containing Jaylee Kindred, who spent a lot of time on the bench in foul trouble.
The game started out well for the Lady Eagles as Kindred scored eight points and hauled in four rebounds as Warner led 15-9 after the first quarter.
“We started off much slower than usual and we’re still trying to regain our momentum after the holiday break,” said veteran coach Rick Kirkhart who took over the Lady Cougars this year.
“But we came out and pressed a little and hit a few shots in the second quarter and got back into the game.”
Kindred drew her third personal foul just three minutes into the second quarter and spent the rest of the half on the bench. Down by eight, Keys took advantage of the opportunity and outscored Warner 15-3 to lead at the break 31-27.
Even with Kindred back in action in the third quarter, the Lady Cougars kept up the assault out of the gate, running off 13 unanswered points that included three treys to take a 44-27 lead with 4:30 to play in the third. In total, Warner went over 10 minutes spanning the second and third quarters without a field goal.
Finally, Kindred’s three-point play with 2:25 left in the quarter got the Lady Eagles within shouting distance at 44-32. But as the quarter closed, the NSU-bound Kindred picked up her fourth foul and would see limited action the rest of the way, finishing with 17 points before fouling out late in the contest as the Lady Eagles (5-2) could get no closer than 10 in the final stanza.
“We knew going in we would have to double-team the back side to help out on Kindred and we also covered up Alexis Fowler because we knew she was probably their best shooter,” said Kirkhart. “Overall, we played well and a win’s a win and we look forward to moving on to the next game.”
For Warner coach Mindi Peters it was just the combination of all the factors mentioned at the start that proved the Lady Eagles undoing on a squad that starts two freshmen and just one senior.
“We had three starters in foul trouble in the first half and that limited their playing time and that helped them take the lead in the second quarter," Peters said. "We had too many turnovers and didn’t put points on the board and put ourselves in a hole.
"They shot well even when with someone in their face and they outplayed us."
For the Lady Cougars (6-0), junior Kylie Eubanks provided a constant spark of offense finishing with a game-high 22 points and was joined in double figures by Sierra Winkler with 14 points and Ashlyn Berry with 11.
Both teams resume action on the road next Tuesday with Keys playing at Sallisaw Central while the Lady Eagles will travel to Spiro.