Keystone Oaks girls basketball's ugly wins lead to 4-1 start
It was a strong showing for the Keystone Oaks girls basketball team last week when looking at the final results.
The team rattled off three wins — 47-44 over Mars, 46-35 over Trinity and 46-43 over Thomas Jefferson — but coach Nikki Presto wasn't overly pleased with the performances, calling the games ugly.
Still, the second-year coach agreed an ugly win is better than a pretty loss.
“We said a win is a win after each game,” Presto said. “We make adjustments every quarter of every game to make improvements. We cannot make mistakes against championship-caliber teams when we face them.”
The win over Thomas Jefferson last week didn't come easy. Keystone Oaks carried an 18-14 lead into halftime after a first half in which each team struggled to find an identity on offense.
“We have been having some trouble in our half-court offense,” Presto said. “We are a lot better in our full-court game and transition. We are trying to make adjustments in practices, before games and during games.
“Luckily we have been able to come out on top for the most part.”
A pair of 3-pointers from Kayla Brownlee and Jillian Welch along with a Maryssa Agurs layup gave Keystone Oaks a 26-16 lead early in the third quarter.
The Lady Jaguars would responded and came within five before Keystone Oaks extended the lead to 34-27.
The Lady Golden Eagles lead extended to 11 points three minutes into the final frame before a Thomas Jefferson 14-5 run pulled the visiting team within a basket.
With 16 seconds left and Keystone Oaks holding a 45-43 lead, Lexi Mercuri was unable to make the first of a pair of free throws.
Thomas Jefferson grabbed the rebound and with less than three second left, and Welch took a charge from Alexis Yanief to seal the win for the Lady Golden Eagles.
“I jumped up and down in my heels and almost fell,” Presto said on the call. “It was really a judgement call from the referee, and luckily it went our way.
“We knew (Yanief) was going to shoot the ball, because she is their best player. (Welch) stepped up for us. She isn't afraid to do the little things.
“One of the good things about this team is they are not afraid to handle the basketball at the end of games. Their not afraid of pressure or intensity.”
Agurs and Welch led the team with 10 points each. Brownlee added nine.
In the final games leading up to the Christmas break, Keystone Oaks faced South Park — the No. 3 team in Tribune Review's Class AAA rankings — on Monday. Results were unavailable at press time.
Keystone Oaks will face South Fayette tonight, Thursday, at home. The Lady Lions are looking to be one of the top teams in Section 5-AAA.
With two high-profile games in a short period of time, Presto said the week will show how strong her squad can be.
“They are obviously two of the best teams in the section,” Presto said. “There will be a lot of preparation, but the outcomes will come more from who has the biggest desire to win.”
The Lady Golden Eagles host South Fayette tonight. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Keystone Oaks will host the Keystone Oaks Christmas Tournament on Dec. 27 and 28.
On the first night, Slippery Rock will face Peters Township at 6 p.m. Keystone Oaks will then face Fort LeBeouf at 7:30 p.m.
Night 2 will feature a consolation game at 6 p.m. followed by a championship game at 7:30 p.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.