KIOWA — Kiowa fans worried what their team will do when senior guard Addy Clift graduates can look at Saturday’s district championship and realize the Cowgirls should be just fine next year.
Four Kiowa starters combined for 33 points, pairing with Clift’s 20 to beat the Haileyville Lady Warriors 69-45 on Saturday in Kiowa.
Kiowa, the No. 7 team in Class A, improved to 23-3 with the win and plays Boswell in the regional semifinals Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Kiowa. Haileyville fell to 10-12 and plays Rock Creek in the regional consolation quarter-finals Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Kiowa.
“Some people overlook the importance of a district final,” Kiowa coach Wade Daniel said. “You have to get it started there. I think they were just a little tight, and I think they just finally relaxed and opened up.”
Back-to-back plays early in the second quarter dramatically changed the complexion of Saturday’s game. Haileyville tried to go on the fastbreak following a Kiowa miss, but Cowgirls guard Tara Mabray sprinted back down the court, got in front of Haileyville center Danielle Morgan and drew a charge.
Mabray then got the ball to Bless Roberts, who drained a layup, drew a second foul against Morgan and hit the free throw to push the lead to 20-13.
Morgan had been essential to Haileyville’s offense up until that point, serving as both a low-post scorer and a screen for guards like Hannah Manning. Morgan didn’t leave the game, but the two fouls forced her into a more passive style of play, and Kiowa quickly took advantage.
Clift hit a layup later in the quarter to push Kiowa’s lead to 22-13, then drew a foul and hit one free throw.
Haileyville guard Sam Horne had held Clift scoreless in the first quarter, but that layup seemed to get Clift back in gear on offense. Layups by Jacy Wills and Tori Gillispie pushed Kiowa’s lead to 12, then Clift hit two free throws.
“Addy always plays hard, and she’s always trying to carry the weight,” Daniel said. “We’re just trying to realize that we have to depend on each other, and they really came through.”
Morgan ended Kiowa’s 16-0 run by scoring off an offensive rebound, drawing a foul and converting it. Morgan added a jumper to start the third quarter, but Clift answered with a layup, then went on the fastbreak and scored after Roberts came up with a steal.
Clift then came up with a steal of her own and scored for a 35-18 Cowgirls lead early in the third quarter. Clift had to sit some of the first half with two fouls but returned in the second half until all the starters subbed out late in the fourth.
“I was kind of being cautious about my fouls, so I was kind of playing (back) a little bit,” Clift said. “I was trying to get back and stuff, but by the third quarter I got to get some steals. That’s where I got most of my points, (on) fastbreaks.”
The Lady Warriors hung with Kiowa in the first half by not allowing any long scoring runs, always answering a Kiowa basket or two with one of their own to keep pace. Haileyville scored 10 points in the third quarter, but that wouldn’t be nearly enough after going scoreless for almost eight minutes late in the first and throughout the second quarter.
Sam Horne scored in transition for Haileyville, but Clift answered with a 3-pointer on the opposite end. Haileyville missed, then Clift got it to Mabray on the fastbreak for a layup, foul and free throw.
Kiowa’s defense forced another turnover, then Clift hit two free throws to push the lead to 43-20 midway through the third quarter.
“When you dig yourself a hole, 20 points, you’re in trouble with them,” Haileyville coach Ray Love.
“We played well with them until we went into a dry spell, and that’s just youth. They’ve been here. They know big games. We don’t.”
Roberts scored 11 points for Kiowa, hitting two 3-points in the first quarter to put Kiowa up 3-0 and then 8-5. Starters Gillispie and Lily Daniel both scored 8 for Kiowa, as did Wills off the bench, and Mabray scored 6.
“Back-side cuts, we used those a lot to get open,” Roberts said.
“We just tried to find holes in the defense. Our intensity was better in the second half. We didn’t have very much in the first half. They’re a very respectable team.”
Morgan led Haileyville with 21 points despite playing with four fouls. Horne, typically one of Haileyville’s best shooters, scored 7 thanks in no small part to Mabray, who guarded Horne one-on-one all night.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.