By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The McAlester Buffaloes couldn’t keep MacArthur’s Jariun Nolan out of the paint. Nor could they get their offense going against the faster, stronger, more athletic Highlanders.
The Buffs quickly fell behind, and without offense or defense, they stayed behind the rest of the game.
Nolan scored 31 points, leading the Highlanders past the Buffs, 80-58, Saturday at Bob Brumley Gymnasium in McAlester.
“Their athleticism forced us into making difficult shots and making difficult passes,” Buffs coach Chris Zike said.
“To beat a team like that, we have to shoot the ball better, and we didn’t shoot it very well tonight.”
Already up 18-10 after the first quarter, the Highlanders took a 10-point lead off a pass from Aaron Allen to Barry Williams for a layup early in the second. Todd Dawkins went coast-to-coast for a Buffs layup and Jalen Erving took a defensive rebound the length of the court for another, but Nolan’s jump shot made it 22-14 MacArthur.
Nolan struck again later in the second, and though Erving got one point back with a free throw, Nolan drained a layup right after to push MacArthur’s lead to 26-15. Nolan had no trouble slashing his way past McAlester defenders, attacking the shooting lanes over and over again.
“They were playing me to my off-side, so I’m going to go the other way,” Nolan said.
Trent Meisel hit a 3-pointer for MacArthur, then. Keaton Slater sank a free throw. But Trace Cook hit a 3-pointer for MacArthur, then David Burns’ steal turned into another layup by Cook that pushed MacArthur’s lead to 34-16.
“We go through (Nolan) because he’s such a talent,” MacArthur coach Kevin Harrington said. “But we’re also (a team where) you have to pick your poison, because we do have some spot-up shooters. Cook, he’s scored over 1,000 points for us. ... Usually, we get a couple guys going and we’re in pretty good shape.”
Slater’s jump shot cut the lead to 34-18, but Williams scored immediately for MacArthur. Eli Boyle knocked down two free throws for McAlester, but Allen finished the half with a layup that made it 38-20 Highlanders.
The Buffs didn’t collapse in the second half despite often looking exhausted by MacArthur’s high-speed attack. MacArthur scored just 4 more points than McAlester in the third quarter, and both teams scored 22 in the fourth.
“I was impressed with McAlester, down 27 points, still playing hard,” Harrington said.
“Every possession, I thought they played hard. When we’ve gotten teams down like that this year, we’ve been able to bury them.”
Despite playing hard, the Buffs couldn’t knock down shots with any regularity. And as they began to tire physically, they became more prone to mental errors, leading to turnovers.
“I thought the effort was great,” Zike said.
“I don’t fault their effort one bit. We just got behind early, and we’re trying to chase them. They’re just the type of team you don’t want to chase around.”
Dawkins led the Buffs with 23 points. Erving scored 10 despite getting kneed in the leg in the second half.
Meisel and Cook both scored 11 for MacArthur. Williams scored 10.
“We had a little more team-speed than them, and (it’s) seniors against underclassmen, too,” Harrington said.
Meisel’s 3-pointer gave MacArthur a 3-0 lead on the opening possession of the game, and MacArthur held onto that lead for the rest of the game. Meisel’s steal turned into a layup by Cook, then Nolan scored to make it 7-0 Highlanders.
Erving got McAlester on the board with a 3-pointer, but Nolan’s pass to Williams led to another MacArthur basket. Boyle’s layup made it a 5-point game, but Nolan later answered with a layup.
Texas Pascale found Dawkins for a 3-pointer, but Nolan scored on the opposite end for a 15-8 lead. Buffs center De’Angelo Rhone made it a 5-point game with a layup, but Burns ended the first quarter with a 3-pointer for an 18-10 lead.
“We can’t lose to a 5A school in Oklahoma, so we have to keep on winning and playing as a team,” Nolan said. “Communicate, don’t be selfish, so we can move up in our rankings. Right now we’re fifth (in Class 5A), and we should not be fifth.”
With the win, MacArthur improved to 11-5. McAlester fell to 6-12.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.