By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — When McAlester’s defense had time to set up, the Lady Buffaloes had some success getting stops and forcing turnovers.
But against the Ardmore Lady Tigers’ high-speed defense, McAlester’s inexperienced guards turned the ball over far too often to give the team a chance.
Ardmore never trailed in Friday’s game and forced 34 McAlester turnovers, beating McAlester 59-41 at Bob Brumley Gymnasium in McAlester.
“The hustle plays really determine the game of what’s going to happen,” Ardmore coach Kevin Kelly said. “Definitely athleticism helps when the game’s not played as clean. Absolutely, athleticism definitely helped us out tonight.”
Ardmore took the lead for good with an 11-0 run in the first quarter that put McAlester on its heels. Rickkia Manuel found Faithlyn Piggee for a jump-shot that broke a 2-2 tie, then an Ardmore steal led to an easy layup by Tee Taylor that made it 6-2 Ardmore.
Ardmore’s defense then forced a traveling call against McAlester, leading to a layup by Christin Russell. After another McAlester turnover, Kyla Stapleton drained a layup, drew a foul and sank the free throw to make it 11-2 Ardmore.
Stapleton finished the run with a layup after Ardmore forced another turnover near McAlester’s basket.
“I don’t think we did a very good job of handling the press at all,” McAlester coach April Burns said. “I think we had a lot of girls who were panicking, and our ball-handling is really struggling.”
McAlester tried to battle back with a 11-2 run of its own, getting a jump-shot and three free throws from Lacey McLain and 3-pointers from Vhitney Garner and Katelynn Creekmore to make it 15-13 Ardmore. But McAlester never tied the game, and Ardmore scored the last 6 points of the quarter to go up 21-13.
Both teams scored 10 in the second quarter, but Ardmore won both the third and fourth quarters to eventually win by 18.
“It just seemed like we really couldn’t get anything going,” Burns said. “When you’re having 34 turnovers in a game, you’re not going to win any ballgames.
Though Piggee scored just 8 points for the Lady Tigers, the center’s stout interior defense single-handedly shut down McAlester’s offense in the paint. Piggee clogged up the layup lanes and forced McAlester to instead settle for jump-shot after jump-shot, leading to numerous missed shots.
Never finding an offensive rhythm, the Lady Buffs made just 11 field goals all night, committing more turnovers than taking shots.
The Lady Tigers, meanwhile, converted 27 field goals, using turnovers and defensive rebounds to fuel their transition game. With Ardmore’s forwards dominating the defensive boards, guards like Zoe Booker were free to sprint down-court for fastbreak opportunities.
“When we can trust three kids to rebound the basketball, I think that you can usually have one leak out,” Kelly said. “And that really takes a rebounder or two away from the offensive rebounding aspect, so we’re really playing three-on-three.”
Coming off the bench, Booker scored 14 for the Lady Tigers, tying Christa Pickens for the team-high.
“We just kept our hands up, and that helped us steal the ball, play good defense,” Booker said.
The same speed that allowed Ardmore’s guards to beat McAlester’s up the floor enabled their full-court, high-pressure defense to completely fluster McAlester’s guard, forcing multiple turnovers on McAlester’s side of the court. Even when the Lady Tigers’ double-teams didn’t get steals, they still often forced the ball to go to a Lady Buff non-handler, which led to several traveling calls near the halfcourt line.
“This is actually a maturation of what we did Tuesday night at Durant,” Kelly said. “Even though we lost the game by 1, defensively we played really well with our full-court pressure.”
April Calistro led the Lady Buffs with 15 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter. McLain, who entered the game leading the team with 13.8 points per game, scored 12, but she went scoreless in the second half.
“She played really hard yesterday, but we have to have other people who can handle the ball beside just one person,” Burns said of Calistro.
“Lacey has really improved her game, and she’s really hard on herself.”
With the win, Ardmore improved to 2-2. McAlester fell to 1-5.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.