BETHANY - Maybe easy isn't a good word, but until the 4A state tournament quarterfinal game against Vinita, No. 1 Anadarko made things look effortless this season while winning 26 games by an average 29-point margin.
The No. 11 Vinita Lady Hornets, who from 2006 to 2011 won four straight games over Anadarko in the state tournament, made sure nothing came simply on Thursday.
In a game that featured nine lead changes, Anadarko pulled out a 51-45 win at Southern Nazarene University after suffering a 4 of 25 showing from the field in the first half.
A 9-2 fourth-quarter surge keyed by senior guard Lakota Beatty, who poured in 22 points, plucked five steals and corralled two rebounds against the Lady Hornets ultimately lifted the Lady Warriors.
Beatty, an Oklahoma State signee, admitted after the game she had pain in her right knee, while also sporting a puffy index finger on her shooting hand. The senior guard shook off the bumps and bruises ó and a load of early nerves ó to keep Anadarko (27-1) on course to defend its 2012 state title.
"We were just really tight," said Beatty of her team, whose last single-digit win this year was a 72-66 conquest of 6A Jenks at the Tournament of Champions in Tulsa. "We were just really nervous out there (Thursday). I think we needed it. We need that to show this isn't going to come easy."
Neither team played particularly well in the first half as they battled to a 13-13 tie at halftime and combined for 13 turnovers.
Vinita used a box-and-one, much like Anadarko coach Jeff Zinn anticipated before the game, and it clogged the lane just enough to keep the Lady Warriors' numerous layup attempts from dropping.
"(Vinita) had a little bit to do with (poor Anadarko shooting early)," Zinn said. "They did a very good job defensively. They really put pressure on us on both ends of the floor."
In the third quarter, the Lady Warriors finally began to wear down Vinita (22-9) when Beatty nailed a 12-footer to give her team a 26-23 lead, erasing an early 3-point, second-half deficit.
Minutes before that, Vinita's Carsyn Spurgeon, who finished with 17 points for the game, converted a traditional 3-point play to give the Lady Hornets an 18-15 lead with 6:35 in the third quarter.
After 3-pointers from Kylie Parker and Tandra King, Beatty hit a runner at the buzzer to give Anadarko a 36-31 lead going into the fourth quarter. It sent the entire Lady Warriors team into a frenzy of fist pumps, a sign that it never lost the ability to play loose down the stretch.