McALESTER — The McAlester Buffaloes started Friday’s game in exciting fashion, mixing high-speed offense with feisty defense and solid rebounding.
The Buffs couldn’t sustain their energy past halftime, however, allowing the Ardmore Tigers to come back and eventually steal the win.
Anthony Willis’ 15 points led a second-half surge for the Tigers, who overcame a 9-point deficit in the third and then beat the Buffs, 74-68, at Bob Brumley Gymnasium for McAlester.
“Last year as a sophomore, over at Duncan we played a triple-overtime game, and he had 42,” Ardmore coach Mark Wilson said of Willis.
“He is an offensive threat.”
Down 43-34 midway through the fourth, Tariq Woods began Ardmore’s comeback with a layup, then Willis knocked down two free throws to make it 43-38 Buffs. Playing far more aggressive defense than it did in the first half, Ardmore then forced a steal, and Keyshawn Brown knocked down his team’s only 3-pointer to make it a 2-point game.
McAlester guard Todd Dawkins found Keaton Slater for a layup and Eli Boyle drained a free throw to push the lead back to 46-41, but Tristan Rogers later drained a layup and drew a foul.
Rogers missed the free throw, but Ardmore came away with the offensive rebound. Jerod Gregoire then floated one in for a 4-point play that put Ardmore up 48-47 late in the third — the team’s first lead of the game.
Dawkins retook the lead with two free throws, but O.J. Walker tied the game 49-49 with one of his own. Jalen Erving put McAlester up 2 with a jump-shot, but Ardmore tied the game with a layup, then Marvin Johnson stole a pass and laid it in to put Ardmore up 53-51 heading into the fourth quarter.
Wilson said his Tigers typically don’t use their full-court defense early in the game, as referees tend to call more fouls early on. But once the Tigers went to the press in the second half, it proved very effective in frustrating McAlester’s guards and forcing turnovers.