By Matt Goisman
KIOWA — The Stuart Hornets showed how quickly they could erase deficits late in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game.
Once the game got to overtime, the Kiowa Cowboys gave the Hornets as little time to work with as possible.
Tristian McMath shot 7-for-8 at the free throw line in overtime, with all of his shots coming in the final 40 seconds of the game, to help the Cowboys beat the Hornets 71-65 on Tuesday in Kiowa.
Kiowa forward Brycen Overton won the jump-off to start the four-minute overtime, then quickly got the ball to Clay Doyle, who advanced it across the half-court line. Doyle then ran off more than 80 percent of the overtime, rarely doing more than just standing in the corner with the ball in his hands.
“He was doing exactly what we wanted,” Kiowa coach Keith Quaid said of Doyle.
“I have experienced guards, and we’ve run those sort of things all year and have the last two years. They’re getting good at that little delay game, and they did a pretty good job executing.”
Doyle eventually got the ball to McMath, whom Zack Murdaugh finally fouled with 38.6 seconds left in overtime. McMath sank both free throws, then Kiowa got the ball back because of the intentional foul.
Murdaugh fouled out putting McMath on the line again, and McMath again sank both to make it 66-62 Cowboys.
Stuart lost its next possession on traveling, and Doyle made one of two free throws to make it 67-62 before Derek Beck sank two for Stuart to cut Kiowa’s lead back to three.
But Kiowa went right back to McMath, who sank two more free throws with 26.6 seconds left, grabbed a defensive rebound, got fouled and sank another to make it 70-64 Kiowa with 14.4 seconds left. McMath finished with 14 points, all of which came in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“Just zone out the world, front of the rim, and let it fly,” McMath said. “Just take it easy, don’t think about anything besides making the free throw.”
Stuart forced overtime by overcoming an eight-point deficit in the final minute of the fourth. Dillon Lawrence sank two free throws to cut Kiowa’s lead to 60-54, then Lawrence drew a foul while sinking a layup and made the free throw to cut the deficit to 60-57.
“That was a great way to start the season,” McMath said. “Stuart played phenomenal, and they’re going to give a good run for the conference tournament.”
Kiowa also overcame a big deficit, though it took the Cowboys much longer than a minute. Down 22-9 early in the second, Caden Shores sank a layup, then turned a steal into a fastbreak layup to make it 22-13.
The Hornets and Cowboys then traded baskets until Shores found Brice Smith under the basket for a layup and a foul. Smith missed the free throw, but Overton grabbed the offensive rebound and fed it back to Smith for another layup that made it 28-23 Hornets.
“We didn’t have a very good start,” Quaid said. “It was just way too much emotion early on, and when we finally settled down and came back a little bit, it gave us a little momentum coming into halftime, and then it was just back-and-forth the rest of the game.”
Shay Calvert’s buzzer-beating fade-away jumper sent Kiowa into halftime down just 32-27. Kiowa continued working the ball to Smith in the second half, leading to 19 of his 23 total points.
Smith drew a foul while sinking a layup, then made the free throw to tie the game 43-43 with 7:33 left in the fourth.
“I was getting used to the officiating,” Smith said of his first half. “I didn’t know how rough I could get away with.”
Stuart got 20 points from Grady Brewer and 19 from Lawrence.
The Hornets were 2012-13 were without starting guards Sam Mitchell and Kaleb Wilson and suited up six fewer players than the Cowboys.
Stuart coach Darrick Farriell said he’s hoping this year’s Hornets reach the Class A state tournament, having lost last year at Area. Wilson, out for undisclosed reasons, could return as early as Friday, Farriell said, while Mitchell should be back from arm surgery around Christmas.
“We’ll have 30-plus points coming back later that we didn’t have tonight, and this group of kids stepped up, showed a lot of heart,” Farriell said.
With the win, the Cowboys opened their season 1-0. The Hornets fell to 1-1.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.