By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The McAlester Buffaloes had to wait almost a month to get their first victory of the 2012-13 boys’ basketball season.
With a huge game from senior forward Eli Boyle, the 2013-14 Buffs didn’t have to wait past Opening Night.
Boyle scored McAlester’s last 9 points as part of a 21-point performance, leading McAlester to a 41-40 comeback win against the Hugo Buffaloes on Tuesday at Bob Brumley Gymnasium in McAlester.
“One of the best games I’ve ever played,” Boyle said. “I loved it.”
Though McAlester led throughout the game, Hugo took a 37-35 lead with 2:07 left in the fourth on a 3-pointer by Nigel Smith — Hugo’s only 3-pointer of the night. McAlester missed its next shot, and on the ensuing rebound McAlester guard Todd Dawkins picked up his fifth foul and left the game.
Dawkins and Boyle had split the offensive load up until that point, with Dawkins scoring 13 and Boyle scoring 18.
“We were moving the ball really well at the end of the half, we started moving and we got more open shots,” Dawkins said.
“It’s just swinging it, really trying to move the ball quick so their defense doesn’t switch and recover.”
Dawkins’ foul put Jordan Stafford at the line, but referees flagged Hugo for its second technical foul of the game. Stafford went 1-for-2, but Boyle sank both free throws to make it 38-37 Hugo.
“Confidence wins ballgames,” Boyle said. “Right before I shoot the shot, every time, I think in my mind, ‘free throws win ballgames,’ and then I shoot.”
Shemar Brown stole McAlester’s next possession, and Arkyl Brown turned the fastbreak opportunity into two free throws to push the lead back to 3. Arkyl Brown scored 11 for Hugo, and Shemar Brown scored 10.
Shemar also gave Hugo a huge game in the paint, grabbing numerous offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive. Hugo didn’t always convert those extra shots into points, but that physicality seemed to wear down McAlester’s defenders late in the game.
“Offensively, we didn’t finish around the basket,” Hugo coach Darnell Shanklin said. “That’s the first thing. If we finish like we’re supposed to around the basket, then we have a chance to win.”
Boyle answered Arkyl Brown with two more free throws of his own to make it a 1-point game, then McAlester called timeout. Hugo successfully inbounded the ball, but McAlester’s defense kept forcing Hugo’s ball-handlers closer to the halfcourt line until a pass crossed the line for a backcourt violation and turnover.
On McAlester’s next possession, Boyle missed, grabbed his own offensive rebound and buried it to put McAlester up 41-40 with 30 seconds left in the game.
“I knew I was going to miss, so immediately I went for the rebound,” Boyle said. “I got it, nobody was guarding me, so I put it up and I put it in. The (first) shot was weak, and I knew it was going to be short, so I went up and got it.”
Hugo still had one more possession to win the game. Hugo’s forwards grabbed two offensive rebounds off misses, but McAlester contested each subsequent shot without fouling.
The clock expired after Hugo missed its third shot of the possession, giving McAlester the win. McAlester’s student section emptied onto the court to celebrate after the buzzer sounded.
“We just competed all night,” Buffs coach Chris Zike said. “They grinded. It was an ugly game, we didn’t play at our best tonight, but we just continued to grind and fight.”
Zike got his first win as McAlester’s varsity head basketball coach. He said McAlester’s offense looked “stagnant” at times during the game, but that will improve once Jalen Erving returns from a one-game absence and reinforcements from McAlester’s football team arrive within two weeks.
Dawkins put McAlester up 7-6 with a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter, and McAlester led 19-17 at halftime. McAlester stretch that lead as big a 9 in the third on a layup by Boyle that made it 28-19.
The third quarter also featured a highlight-reel sequence from McAlester guard Texas Pascale. Pascale leaped out of bounds to save an offensive possession, then finished it by stepping around a Hugo defender and kissing a scoop-shot off the backboard for a 26-18 lead.
“I figured me and Texas being the leaders of the team, other than Todd, we would have to step it up,” Boyle said.
With the win, McAlester opened its season 1-0. Hugo fell to 0-2.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.