By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The McAlester Lady Buffaloes and Hugo Lady Buffaloes played each other even in the first quarter, but a dominant second quarter from Hugo left McAlester too big a deficit to overcome.
Three Hugo players scored in double-digits, leading their team to a 62-39 win at McAlester’s Bob Brumley Gymnasium on Tuesday.
Up just 2 points to start the second, Hugo’s Sarah Simpson buried a 3-pointer on the first possession of the quarter to make it 17-12 Hugo. That started a 15-0 run by Hugo that didn’t end until McAlester forward Lacey McLain drained a layup with 1:44 left in the half to make 27-14 Hugo.
Beautiful Brown, Torrii Tarkington and Rayshee Smith all scored for Hugo during that momentum-swinging run.
“The second quarter, we just concentrated on defense,” Hugo coach Chris Scott. “We picked up the pressure a little bit, and I think we just kind of wore them down.”
April Calistro hit a 3-pointer for McAlester early in the third, but Hugo again outscored McAlester, 20-8, to put the game away. Hugo combined a high-pressure perimeter defense with strong play in the paint from forwards Brown and Shaniqua Patterson to force 25 McAlester turnovers.
“That’s one of our strong points,” Scott said. “I think that we can be able to cause a lot problems defensively by picking up full-court. We can get up, make people work, and just try to get easy baskets out of transition.”
Tarkington benefited the most from Hugo’s tough defense, scoring a game-high 17 points on seven baskets, several of which came off turnovers.
“We just had to get into it,” Tarkington said. “We just came from a long bus ride, so I think we just had to get into the game a little bit.”
McAlester’s turnovers forced its defenders into a transition game that played into Hugo’s speed. When McAlester was able to set up an actual defense, either off a basket or a turnover out of bounds, it had far more success turning aside Hugo’s shooters.
“We have to work on handling the ball, which we said is going to be our biggest issue this year,” McAlester coach April Burns said. “We have to handle the ball and we have to learn how to control it.”
McAlester might’ve kept the game closer with better ball-handling, but an inability to score left the home team frustrated. McAlester forwards such as McLain and Shattee Robinson frequently got open, but they just couldn’t sink their shots.
“In the paint, we were 5-for-32,” Burns said.
“Whenever we’re not hitting the layups, everybody’s spirits get crushed pretty quickly. We’re getting the shots we want, we’re getting our shot right in the paint where we want to get it. We just have to put the ball in the hole.”
McLain led McAlester with 12 points. Not a starter last year but given that honor Tuesday, McLain put herself in the right offensive positions all night long but took too many off-balance shots.
Once McLain settles into her role and improves her shooting form, Burns said, the scoring numbers should go up.
McAlester also got 11 points from Calistro, who sank two 3-pointers. Her second made it 52-27 Hugo in the fourth, a quarter in which McAlester outscored Hugo, 17-14.
Taylor Compton, Maddie McGowan, McLain, and Baylee Dawkins all scored for McAlester in the fourth.
“I was proud of our girls that they didn’t just lie down and die,” Burns said. “They could’ve easily done that, but they did not. They continued to work hard, (but) too much of a hole. Too much of a hole in the second quarter.”
Tuesday’s game featured a back-and-forth first quarter in which both teams held leads. Tarkington put back an offensive rebound to put Hugo up 2-0, but McLain tied it with a layup off a pass from Robinson.
Compton’s free throw made it 3-2 McAlester, then a Hugo turnover led to a layup by McGowan. Robinson’s free throw made it 6-2, but Hugo tied the game on a put-back by Simpson and a fastbreak layup by Smith.
Hugo took the lead for good on a steal by Simpson that turned into a basket for Smith. Layups by McLain and McGowan cut Hugo’s lead to 14-12 late in the first, but while McAlester had the final possession of the quarter, no one could get off a shot before the buzzer.
With the win, Hugo improved to 2-0. McAlester began its season 0-1.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.