The Karr-Warren Easton district contest in mid-January had more than just a 10-4A title on the line.
Both sides left hints that may reveal the their teams’ true character as the postseason nears.
If that’s the case, Karr may be in playoff form.
Karr received balanced scoring and used a stingy defense to survive a second-half Easton rally for a 57-49 district victory Monday night at home.
The Cougars (16-6, 3-0) won their fifth consecutive contest and have their coach believing they may have started to play their best basketball of the season.
“I think these kinds of games are huge, especially in the playoffs, when we’ll see the benefits of these games,” Karr coach Jessica Barber said. “When you beat an Easton or a John Curtis, teams that play for state championships, I think that says a lot about our team.
“We’re starting to turn a corner. We’re starting to absorb some of it and not make the same mistakes in the heat of the moment.”
Karr raced out to a 26-17 halftime lead after limiting the visiting Eagles (14-10, 1-1) to 17 percent from the field over the first two quarters, including a 1-for-16 mark from beyond the arc.
Barber’s team used some tactics installed over the weekend. Somehow, someway, it worked.
“In the first half, we did an excellent job keeping Easton to one shot per possession,” she said. “They kept shooting 3s, and that’s what we wanted them to do. When they’re hot, they’re hot, but thankfully they weren’t tonight. Our defensive effort was great, even with the junk defense we put in yesterday.”
Easton found a hole in the Cougars defense as the second half got underway, which coincided with the Eagles making a push in the third quarter.
Second and third chances keyed Easton’s rally, as the trio of Kechelle Fiegueroa, Keara Williams and Nikole Haroon spearheaded the surge.
Figueroa’s and-one with 1:51 remaining in the third brought Easton to within seven, then Haroon’s layup 19 seconds later cut the deficit to five.
Karr’s lead was sliced to seven entering the fourth quarter, prompting Barber to shake up the defensive strategy.
“We lost our focus of the game plan,” she said. “We wanted to limit them to one shot per possession. They got a little energy and we gave them multiple shots, so I talked to Zharian Maxmillion and Diamond Emery and told them no more second chances. Once we did that, we pulled away.”
Maxmillion, Emery and the rest of the Cougars crashed the boards and reasserted themselves on the defensive end of the floor.
Karr limited Easton to 2-of-19 shooting in the final quarter, including a 1-of-10 mark from downtown and not one field goal over the final 3:48 of the contest.
With Easton’s offense in a standstill, Karr sank 10-of-20 from the free-throw stripe to close out the game.
Paige Williams led Karr with 14 points and six rebounds. Imani Mulmore finished with 11 points and six boards. Both Maxmillion and Destiny Collins notched double-doubles of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Easton was led by Figueroa, who had 22 points, including 16 in the second half. Williams finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, and Haroon chipped in eight points, four boards and four steals.
“We’ve got to hit shots,” Easton coach Darius Mimms said. “We tried to get some people wide-open looks, but we missed wide-open shots. We’ve got to make those. They played physical and won the bully game, but I thought the refs called it in their favor. They let them play physical, and when that happens that’s the result.
“Still, we’ve got to make shots. If we do those things right come playoff time, I think we’ll be right back where we were last year.”