COLLINSVILLE — The Collinsville Kahoks couldn't capitalize on a golden opportunity Thursday night.
Granite City senior Natalie O'Keefe was saddled by foul trouble and poor shooting, but the Warriors still managed a 40-32 victory over the Kahoks in a Southwestern Conference game.
"That was our key, to try to at least get her in foul trouble or limit her playing time. We did that and got her off the floor, but we couldn't take advantage," Kahoks coach Lori Billy said of Keefe, averaging 16 points per game. "The shots wouldn't drop."
The 6-foot-2 O'Keefe was in and out of the action until fouling out with 5:53 to play in the game. She scored nine points on 4-for-17 shooting, but senior Tatiana Wartenbe picked up the slack with a game-high 14 while sophomore Malori Meador added nine.
The Warriors (13-12 overall, 6-6 SWC) also capitalized on Collinsville's woeful 2-for-11 showing from the free-throw line.
"When Natalie scores nine points, it's very difficult for us to win," Granite City coach Raffi Karibian said. "She's been the heart and soul of our team all year long.
"I'll tell you what I told her on the bench and what I just told my team. I said, 'She's been picking you guys up all year long, and tonight you picked her up for once.' It was nice to see."
The Kahoks (11-11, 6-6), who got 10 points from freshman Kassidy Smith and seven from freshman Julie Scheiter, had a 22-17 lead after Smith scored in the lane with 2:04 to play in the third quarter.
But Wartenbe followed with a 3-pointer to ignite a 10-0 run that gave the Warriors a 27-22 lead with 5:27 to play in the game.
Collinsville recovered briefly to lead 30-29 on a baseline jumper by Scheiter with 2:18 left. Wartenbe, however, converted a three-point play to start an 8-0 spree that clinched the Warriors' win.
"A little nervous," Wartenbe said of her emotional state during the game. "I think this was my best game so far this season. I handled the ball and shot it well."
Wartenbe, averaging 6.4 points, finished 5-for-6 from the field and made both her 3-point attempts.
"Tat hit a big 3 off (an) out-of-bounds (play); Malori made a nice screen for her on a step-in in the corner," Karibian said. "Then she got her confidence up after that. Tat's been huge for us all year. She's getting better and better."
Granite City was 4-for-5 from the floor in the fourth quarter and 10-for-13 from the line. The Warriors were 11-for-15 on free throws in the game and shot 38 percent from the field (13-for-34).
Billy bemoaned the Kahoks' cold shooting, particularly from the line.
"That's going to hurt you any night," said Billy, whose team was 14-for-43 from the field (33 percent). "I've got to give (the Warriors) credit. They played hard and they got the win."
Karibian was pleased his team didn't fold up the tents when it became clear O'Keefe wasn't going to have her usual big game.
"I just can't be any prouder of every kid that was out there tonight," said Karibian, whose team was without sophomore Lindsay Levault (knee injury). "They just found ways to make big baskets, make big free throws and get big stops. That's a credit to the kids; it was nothing I did."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.