ADA — Coalgate coach Jim Jenson said before Thursday’s opening-round contest with Class 6A power Tulsa Union at the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic that he just wanted his team to “compete” against the taller, quicker Lady Redskins. 

Jenson saw his team battle, but in the end the Lady Wildcats lost the war convincingly, falling 60-33 to the tournament’s top seed to drop into the Mid-America loser’s bracket for the second straight year.

“We did a pretty good job of executing,” Jenson said after seeing his club — a Class 2A semifinalist the past two seasons and ranked No. 17 in Class 3A coming into the Mid-America — fall to 5-5 on the season. “We just didn’t have the athletes they did.”

With the victory, Union (3-0 and ranked No. 2 in 6A) advanced to a 6:30 p.m. semifinal showdown tonight with fellow unbeaten Cache (9-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class A). The Lady Bulldogs rallied to beat Class A No. 2 Howe, 65-58, in Thursday’s third opening-round contest.

“This was like our third opening game of the year,” said Union coach Jim Stacy, whose team was playing for the first time in 10 days after seeing four of its first six games cancelled due to icy weather earlier this month. “We’re still trying to knock off the rust. We’re excited about the opportunity to play three nights in a row.”

Coalgate, winner of two straight games to claim the consolation crown at the 2006 Mid-America after an opening-round loss to Cache (the 2006 Mid-America runner-up), will face Howe (9-1) in today’s first loser’s bracket contest at 3 p.m.

Malory Walker, Coalgate’s 6-2 senior center, scored a season-high 22 points and added a team-high seven rebounds in Thursday’s loss, but the rest of the Lady Wildcats combined to go just 3-for-17 from the field, and Jenson’s defense had no answer for the Union 1-2 punch of 5-11 senior guard Lindsay Palmer and cat-quick junior point guard Destinee Frierson.

Palmer, who has committed to play at Baylor next season, matched Walker’s 22 points, hitting eight of her 15 shots and going 5-for-9 from 3-point range, and she added six rebounds and four assists. Frierson, meanwhile, outscored the other 10 Coalgate players who saw action, finishing with 12 points and adding two steals and a game-high eight assists and, although Union had only a 31-28 rebound edge, the Lady Redskins had 15 offensive rebounds in the win.

“I was pleased with our effort all night and I was pleased with our defense,” Jenson said. “(The Lady Redskins) were just so physical they got a lot of second shots.”

Coalgate managed just 11 shots in a first half controlled by Union from start to finish. The Lady Redskins got scoring from six different players before the break, with Palmer pouring in 13 points before intermission on 5-of-9 shooting (including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc) to outscore the entire Coalgate team.

Palmer’s trey from the corner ignited a 7-0 run to start the game, and, after Walker was fouled on a fast-break layup off a nice assist from Jennifer Sandmann and converted the free throw to make it 7-3, the Lady Redskins scored the next 15 points. 

A Palmer 3-pointer started the decisive spurt, and she added a layup with 2:07 left in the period to make it 20-3. She finished the opening quarter with 10 of Union’s 22 points to help the Lady Redskins to a 22-4 advantage heading to the second.

Walker hit a pair of free throws and Becca Crow drained a long 3-pointer from the right corner to trim the Union lead to 13 with 5:10 left in the half, but the Lady Wildcats managed only a Walker layup and a Kalee Pebworth free throw the rest of the way and trailed 31-12 at the break.

Palmer’s third trey of the half gave Union its first 20-point lead of the game at 29-9 at the 2:45 mark, and her spinning layup in traffic in the final seconds sent the Lady Redskins to the locker room with their 19-point advantage.

Frierson’s fast-break layup with 2:48 left in the third quarter gave Union its biggest lead of the game to that point at 54-28. Then, after Maurica Girten capped a 7-2 Coalgate run with a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 44-25 with 1:30 left, Union finished the quarter on a 7-0 run that started with a 3-pointer and layup by Palmer and ended with a Frierson fast-break layup to make it 51-25 heading to the fourth.

Although Palmer and Frierson were the only two Union players in double figures, Carrington Fox also had a solid all-around game with nine points, three blocked shots and a game-high eight rebounds in the win.

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