McALESTER — The MacArthur Lady Highlanders put sophomore guard Yoshika Thomas at the top of their fullcourt press defense, letting her swarm McAlester ball-handlers in the backcourt and put her team on the fastbreak.
With Thomas locking down the defense and Paj Jackson running the offense, the Lady Buffaloes just couldn’t hang with the Lady Highlanders.
The Lady Highlanders led almost the entire game, knocking down seven 3-pointers and beating the Lady Buffs, 59-40, Saturday at Bob Brumley Gymnasium.
Though MacArthur never trailed, McAlester kept the game close through the first quarter, and Baylee Dawkins’ layup cut MacArthur’s lead to 24-18 midway through the second. But Kiaji Sawyer (team-high 13 points) knocked down a 3-pointer for MacArthur, kickstarting a 16-4 run that lasted into the third quarter.
Lacey McLain put back an offensive rebound for the Lady Buffs to make it 27-20 MacArthur, but on the opposite end Jackson sliced her way through the paint and scored to push the lead back to 9. MacArthur’s defense took over at that point, with Thomas coming away with steals on three McAlester possessions in a row.
“She’s a track star, so we put her out there and let her run,” MacArthur coach Danny Garza said of Jackson. “Her rule is just, wherever the ball is at, go to the ball and try to trap.”
MacArthur couldn’t score off the first two steals, but the third eventually led to Jackson finding Lauren Henry for a 3-pointer. Jackson then grabbed a steal on McAlester’s next possession and scored off the fastbreak.
McAlester missed, then Thomas scored to make it 36-20. McLain scored off another offensive rebound, and MacArthur went into halftime up 36-22.
“Right before the end of the second quarter, there were about seven turnovers in a row that gave them about 10 points,” McAlester coach April Burns said. “It was just a big blow.”