By Matt Goisman
BROKEN BOW — McAlester’s defense has improved enough that it can now keep opposing scores from getting out of hand.
Now the Lady Buffaloes just need to find their shooting stroke.
The Lady Buffs shot well below 50 percent Saturday, preventing them from mounting a comeback and leading to a 61-52 loss to the idabel Lady at the Savage Classic in Broken Bow.
Though the loss dropped the Lady Buffs to 1-6, those 52 points made the game McAlester’s second-best offensive game behind a 54-point performance against Tahlequah Sequoyah on Dec. 17.
“From the field goal range, we were 18-for-54, and almost every one of them on the shot charts were in the paint,” McAlester coach April Burns said. “So we have to finish layups. We’re getting shots right around the goal; we have to learn how to be mentally tough and focused to put the ball in the hole.”
In order to push the defensive tempo, Burns said, McAlester started the game with four guards on the floor. That strategy helped keep Idabel’s scoring to mini-runs of 2-6 points, but Idabel still finished the first quarter up 19-9.
A free throw from Samantha Wolf put Idabel on the board, then Marquisha Vann got it to Tahjanie Harris for a layup that made it 3-0 Idabel. April Calistro found Baylee Dawkins under the basket for McAlester’s first bucket, but Harris scored again to push the lead back to 3.
McAlester answered again, this time with Calistro finding Taylor Compton for a layup. But Malieka Faulks made two free throws, then passed it to Keyia Green for a layup that pushed Idabel’s lead to 9-4.
Vann put back an offensive rebound later in the first. After Lacey McLain scored a layup for McAlester, Vann’s 3-pointer made it 14-6 Idabel.
Faulks’ two free throws pushed the lead to 10, Calistro knocked down a 3-pointer, then an Idabel steal led to a basket by Harris that made it 19-9.
“We try to play aggressive defense, put a lot of pressure on the other team,” Idabel coach Steve Bryant said. “We have enough speed that we can back up and down the floor with it.”
McAlester got outscored 16-15 in the second quarter, then came out much stronger in the second half. Dawkins scored off a pass from Compton to open the third quarter, kicking off a second half in which Dawkins scored 11 of her 15 total points.
“The second half, when were down, we knew we had to come back, and we just had to take it to the hole,” Dawkins said. “They were in foul trouble, so we just attacked.”
Faulks answered Dawkins with another layup. An extremely fast guard for the Lady Warriors, Faulks scored 14 and also wreaked havoc with McAlester’s offense, leaping into passing lanes for steals on what looked like easy passes just moments prior.
Dawkins’ jump shot cut Idabel’s lead to 37-28 in the third, but McAlester could never get the lead smaller than 8 points. Shattee Robinson scored 8 of her 10 total points in the second half, but Idabel seemed to have an answer every time McAlester scored.
The Lady Buffs also missed 10 free throws, including one in a 1-and-1 situation.
“These girls are working as hard as they possibly can,” Burns said. “We can’t ask for anything more as far as how hard they’re working and their work ethic, but they have to finish.”
Harris proved to be the Lady Buffs’ biggest nemesis, scoring a game-high 18 points. When Faulks picked up her fourth foul early in the third and fouled out early in the fourth, the Lady Warriors turned to Harris to run the offense.
Giving her teammates a tall target down-court, Harris allowed the Lady Warriors to pass over McAlester’s defense before the Lady Buffs could swarm a ball-handler and force a turnover. This strategy broke down McAlester’s defense, and in the confusion Harris knocked down two 3-pointers and a layup in the second half.
“We have some good outside shooting,” Bryant said. “We try to penetrate and get it to our post as much as we can, but we do have some real good outside shooting that can take hold of the ballgame for us.”
With the win, Idabel improved to 5-6. McAlester next plays at the Bedouin Shrine Classic, which started Monday in Muskogee.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.