ADA — For about 30 percent of Thursday night’s showdown with fellow No. 1 Kiowa in the first round of the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic, Preston actually looked like Oklahoma’s highest-scoring girls basketball team. As a result, the Lady Pirates managed to score only a fraction over 50 percent of their season average of 93.4 points per game coming into the tournament.

That was enough, though, to lead Class A’s top-ranked team to an ugly 47-35 victory over the Lady Cowgirls (No. 1 in Class B) and into tonight’s semifinals. With Thursday’s win, Preston improved to 8-0 on the season and will meet Class 3A power Verdigris (4-4) in the nightcap (scheduled for 8 p.m.) of the second day of the tournament, with the winner to face Cache or top seed Tulsa Union for the Mid-America title at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Kiowa (12-1) will face Class A No. 4 Okarche (which dropped a 55-47 decision to Verdigris in Thursday’s tourmament opener) in the second of two loser’s bracket contests today at 4:30 p.m.

Preston hit just 9-of-27 first-half shots and 19-of-49 overall and finished just 2-of-13 from 3-point range. But the Lady Pirates used a 14-0 run late in the first half and early in the third quarter to wipe out a 19-12 Kiowa lead, and they finally broke the game open with a 10-0 run in the first 2:48 of the fourth period. Other than those two spurts, however (which combined lasted about nine minutes and saw the Lady Pirates go 12-for-19 from the field), Preston managed only seven field goals in 30 attempts.

“We were streaky tonight,” a disappointed Preston coach Mickey Duncan admitted. “We only played when we had to, and that’s not good. Kiowa did a great job defensively, and we missed a lot of shots.”

“I’d like to rewind the game and see where that lead went,” Kiowa coach Wade Daniel said after seeing his team hit just 9-of-35 shots, including 4-of-19 from beyond the arc. “I’m happy the girls played hard and weren’t intimidated. That was one of our goals this week.

“We wanted to control the tempo as much as we could,” he added. “We followed the game plan, but Preston is just a super team. It was good to step on the floor with them. We’re looking more ‘big picture’ right now, and I think this game and playing in this tournament will help us come March (at the Class B state tournament).”

Despite having twice as many turnovers (6) as field goals (3), Kiowa led 8-6 after a first quarter in which Preston went 3-of-12 from the field, and the Cowgirls used a pair of long 3-pointers by Krista Lewis on back-to-back possessions to take a 19-12 lead with 2:47 left in the half.

Preston finished the second quarter on an 8-0 run, however, highlighted by a pair of jumpers by Lauren Abbott and capped by a fast-break layup from Talor Ward, to take a 20-19 lead at the break. The Lady Pirates then scored the first six points in the third quarter on a putback of an offensive rebound by Sierra Cornwell and back-to-back layups by Maylisa Johnson to make it 26-19 with 4:40 left in the period.

Kiowa eventually trimmed the Preston lead to 30-29 on a conventional 3-point play by Andrea Smith with 55.3 seconds remaining in the quarter and trailed 33-31 heading to the fourth after a 3-pointer by Preston’s Savannah Hamilton and pair of free throws by the Cowgirls’ senior point guard, Katy Clift, in the final 27 seconds of the period.

But Kiowa turned the ball over on four straight possession and five-of-six to start the fourth quarter and managed just four free throws (all by Clift) in the final eight minutes. Preston took advantage of the cold spell to take control of the game, hitting five straight field goals in the span of less than two minutes.

Johnson — who finished with a team-high 14 points and added nine rebounds, eight assists, two blocked shots and a steal — keyed the pivotal run, scoring the first two baskets off assists from Cornwell and assisting on back-to-back fast-break layups by Abbott in the space of just 99 seconds to make it 41-31 with 5:26 to play. The Preston running game also accounted for the final basket in the run just 14 seconds later, with Abbott hitting her third straight layup after a steal and assist from Cornwell to give the Lady Pirates their first 12-point lead of the night.

Kiowa eventually made it an eight-point game (43-35) on a pair of Clift free throws with 3:23 to play, but the Cowgirls missed their final six shots and Johnson and Ward hit four straight free throws in the final 49 seconds to account for the final margin of victory.

Clift, who was just 3-for-12 from the field, went 10-for-10 from the free throw line to finish with a game-high 17 points, and she added three assists, two steals and a blocked shot, but Lewis (10 points) was the only other Kiowa player with more than four points.

Abbott (10 points, six rebounds) joined Johnson in double figures for Preston, which outrebounded Kiowa 40-24 and had 17 offensive rebounds (six by Johnson) to only six for the Cowgirls.

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