By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The McAlester Junior High Basketball Tournament began Monday, with games taking place at Parker Intermediate Center, Puterbaugh Middle School and Bob Brumley Gymnasium. Boys’ and girls’ basketball teams from five schools including McAlester competed Monday and Tuesday.
McAlester’s teams went 7-9 overall through the first two days, but McAlester Gold went 2-0 in the eighth-grade boys division and faces Durant in the championship tonight at 8 p.m. at Brumley.
McAlester Gold 40, Henryetta 23
The Jr. Buffs looked almost too athletic in their first quarter against the Henryetta Knights. A McAlester defender would intercept a pass, beat everyone down the court for a fast-break opportunity, but then rush the actual shot and come away with no points.
Once the Jr. Buffs settled in, however, the Knights had no chance.
McAlester almost quadrupled Henryetta’s scoring the second and third quarter, with six different Jr. Buffs scoring to help beat the Knights, 40-23 on Tuesday at Bob Brumley Gymnasium
“We have a lot of great athletes on our team,” Jr. Buffs coach John Spiegel said.
“We have really a lot of great players, and they want to play, and they want to be better, and they want to be the best they could be. And so they come out, and they just basically over-exerted themselves. And then we just had to slow down and set things in play.”
Though down 8-4 early in the second, McAlester began its comeback with a free throw from Jett Wood. After Henryetta missed its next shot, Wood sprinted down the court on the fast-break and found Deron Mack for a layup to cut the deficit to 1.
On Henryetta’s next possession, Wood came up with a steal and turned it into a layup for a 9-8 lead.
The Jr. Buffs never trailed again.
“We started coming together,” Spiegel said. “We have a great, great team this year, and I still think they’re learning how each other players, their positions on the court. I think once they really find out what their place is on the team, and they really find out what our offense is centered around, I think we’ll come out.”
A steal by Richie Williams led to Mack scoring off a pass from Vinny Williams. Though Mack picked up three fouls early in the game, he never fouled out and finished with 14 points.
Vinny Williams stole Henryetta’s next possession and laid it in, then hit a floater on an inbounds pass to push the lead to 15-8. Henryetta’s Avery Moore sank two free throws and Hayden Horton scored to cut the lead to 15-12 McAlester, but after McAlester missed a shot, Henryetta lost control of its next possession and the ball rolled into the back-court.
Wood scooped up the loose ball, scored, drew a foul and sank the free throw to make it 18-12 Buffs with 1.4 seconds left in the half. Wood scored 9 for the Buffs.
After a momentum-changing second quarter, McAlester put the game away with a dominating third in which it outscored Henryetta, 18-4. Vinny Williams started the third by finding Mack under the basket for a layup, then a steal led to Vinny scoring on a fast-break to make it 22-12 Buffs.
“Vinny’s so quick, he can beat, I think, any point guard that we’ll play this year as far as quickness goes,” Spiegel said. “It’s just him finding that chemistry with Jett and with Deron.”
Wood then put back an offensive rebound to push McAlester’s lead to 12, but Horton scored to make it 24-14 Buffs. Easily the Knights’ most productive player Tuesday, Horton scored 16 and grabbed multiple offensive rebounds.
“Which is crazy, because I don’t even think he was the most athletic guy that was out there,” Spiegel said of Horton.
“It should’ve never happened, our lack of rebounds, our lack of defense underneath the basket, and of course our shots. We took a ton of shots a missed a ton. So like I said, I think as the season progresses, I think you’ll see a different team.”
Horton’s next basket cut the lead to 26-16, but the Jr. Buffs closed out the third on a 10-0 run. Four different players scored during that run, including Vinny Williams on a fastbreak that made it 34-16 McAlester.
Vinny Williams finished with 12 points. Henryetta got a 3-pointer from Moore in the fourth and outscored McAlester 7-4, but by that point the Knights were too far behind to mount a comeback.
McAlester Gold beat Durant B on Monday, 57-17 and will play Durant in the eighth-grade boys championship Thursday..
Henryetta 32, McAlester 9
Henryetta used a full-court press to fluster McAlester’s offense early.
Once the Lady Knights had a big enough lead, they switched to a half-court zone that proved equally effective.
Henryetta shut out McAlester in the first quarter and cruised from there, beating the Lady Buffs on Tuesday at Parker Intermediate Center, 32-9.
McAlester beat Durant B on Monday, 23-22, to go 1-1 in the seventh-grade girls division heading into Thursday’s game against Durant at 6 p.m. at Puterbaugh Middle School.
Putting heaving pressure on McAlesters inbounds pass, the Lady Knights outscored the Lady Buffs 16-0 in the first quarter, with all eight baskets coming off steals. Meg Vance hit a layup to make it 2-0 Henryetta, then stole a pass and laid it in to push the lead to 4-0.
“Yesterday’s game, they were a lot calmer, it seemed,” Lady Buffs coach Lynda Bushell said. “But today, they just got frazzled with the pressure.”
After the two teams traded turnovers, the Lady Knights stole four passes in a row. Mattie Blackbear finished all four with layups to push the lead to 12-0, then did so again later in the first to make it 14-0.
Blackbear finished with 12 points to lead the Lady Knights. Her steal led to a layup by Potter that made it 16-0 Lady Knights after the first.
“She’s really good at her ball-instincts, because she’s played a lot in the summertime, so that probably helps her a lot,” Henryetta coach Regina Ishmael said of Blackbear.
The Lady Buffs, meanwhile, struggled against the Lady Knights’ full-court press, rarely advancing the ball past the half-court line and not even attempting a shot until the final minute of the first. McAlester’s Calee McNutt turned a steal into a layup to get the Buffs on the board, but that first basket didn’t come until 4:06 remained in the second quarter and the Lady Buffs were already down 18-0.
“They had a game yesterday, and they did not have to deal with pressure at all,” Bushell said. “So that’s definitely something that we have to work on, is dealing with the pressure bringing the ball up.”
Bushell added, “They didn’t quit. They did not quit, and that’s something that we have to just continue.”
McAlester scored just one basket in the third and one in the fourth, not having any more success against Henryetta’s 1-1-3 zone then it did against the press. McNutt scored off a pass from Kayla Woodmore to make it 28-4 Henryetta in the third, then a turnover led to Eden Vaughn hitting a 3-pointer to make it 32-9 Henryetta in the fourth.
“Has never shot a 3-pointer during practice, and popped one yesterday, too,” Bushell said of Vaughn.
While Blackbear took care of ball-handling and ran the offense, the Lady Knights also got solid production from posts such as Vance, Potter and Abby Walker. Ten different Lady Knights scored in the game, with Vance’s 4 points putting her second on the team.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.