• By NICK HAMPTON Muskogee Phoenix

WARNER — On a night when two of the main spark plugs weren’t exactly hitting on all cylinders, the sixth ranked Lady Eagles of Warner used a strong first half offense, a stingy defense in the second half and a last-second free throw to hold off Chouteau 45-44 to capture a district championship out of  Class 2A Area III on Saturday night at the Warner Event Center. 

Junior Alexis Fowler put in 13 of her 16 points in the first half but the usually red-hot junior Harlie Chesser was held scoreless on the night. Coming to the rescue was sophomore Jordan Jackson, who had a game-high 17 points, and senior Tyia Fulbright who hit one of two free throws with 5.6 seconds left in the game for the winning margin.

Chouteau, who fell to 12-9, “has been playing really good basketball the past four or five games so we knew it would be tough,” said Lady Eagles coach Mindi Peters.

“They play good defense, rebound well and hustle and they’re going to surprise some people as the playoffs continue. We had some turnovers in the second half and we missed several little bump shots throughout the ball game that would have helped extend our lead.”

Leading 25-18 at the break, Warner (19-4) shot just 3-of-13 from the field in the third quarter with two of those being treys by Jackson and the Lady Wildcats cut the Warner lead to five after three quarters.

The Lady Eagles maintained that margin until Karli Kuehne nailed a 3-pointer for Chouteau with 1:56 left to make it 43-41 Warner. On the next possession Peyton Sikes missed one of those “bumps” that Peters mentioned right under the basket, but the Wildcats turned the ball right back over and it remained a two-point game when Chouteau called a timeout with 35 seconds left.

Since they had fouls to give and the clock in Warner’s favor, the Wildcats committed four quick fouls over the next eight seconds finally putting Jackson at the free-throw line with 28.9 seconds left. But she missed the front end of the one-and-one. Peyton Sikes was fouled on a follow shot and hit one of two charities to make it a three-point game.

With 17 ticks left, Chouteau’s Chesney Inglett, who had 15 points for the Lady Cats, hit a trey to tie it up at 44-all. After two Chouteau timeouts, Warner worked the ball down and Fulbright was fouled on a drive to the bucket, missing the first free throw but the second bounced around the rim and fell in with 5.6 seconds to win it for the Lady Eagles.

“Overall, I’m proud of the girls. They stuck with it when things got tight and hit when the needed to at the end and I didn’t feel like they ever lost their composure,” said Peters.

Both teams advance to next week’s regionals at Colcord with the Eagles (19-4) playing the host Hornets (14-7) at 6 pm.  while the Wildcat (12-9) will play Chelsea (10-13) in the consolation bracket.

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