By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Hornets 76, Demons 49:
With the outside shots not falling, the Stuart Hornets switched their offense to the paint.
The always-attacking Hornets just had too many weapons for the Crowder Demons.
The Hornets outscored the Demons in each of the first three quarters, winning Thursday’s semifinal of the Pitt 8 Tournament 76-49 at the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester.
The Hornets go for their fifth consecutive championship Saturday against Haileyville at 8 p.m.
“We were 33 percent from the 3-point line the first quarter, and we were 82 percent from the free-throw line the first quarter,” Stuart guard Kaleb Wilson said. “When (our coach) told us those numbers, we knew what we had to do: We had to get it inside.”
Though a 5-point game early in the second quarter, Stuart began pulling away when Wilson drew a foul and hit two free throws. Crowder missed its next shot, the Wilson went back to the foul line and hit two more to make it 22-13 Hornets.
Crowder missed again, and off the defensive rebound Stuart went on the fastbreak, with Grady Brewer finishing with a layup on the opposite end. Brewer scored just 7 points — four on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that included a free throw at halftime — but the Hornets’ play picked up almost as soon as he subbed in midway through the first quarter.
“Grady came in a played really well for us tonight,” Stuart coach Darrick Farriell said of Brewer. “He gives us another kid that can hit the 3 a little bit, but he can also attack and get to the rim. He gives a second point guard out there to handle the ball besides Kaleb (Wilson).”
Hunter Motley hit a jump shot for Crowder, but Wilson matched him on the opposite end. Austin Weeks knocked down two free throws, but Brewer found Tyler Dunagan in the post for a layup on the opposite end.
Wilson then came away with a steal on Crowder’s next possession, going coast-to-coast for a layup that made it 30-17 Hornets.
Crowder and Stuart continued to trade baskets throughout the second quarter, but Wilson found Zach Murdaugh for a layup late. After Crowder couldn’t score on its next possession, Brewer knocked down his and-1 3-pointer to make it 38-21 at halftime.
Stuart never went on one long scoring run in the second half. But the Hornets answered every Crowder basket with a couple in a row, pushing their lead further and further away.
Wilson’s pass to Dillon Lawrence netted the Hornets one last layup before the end of the third, giving Stuart a 60-39 lead.
Wilson scored 23 points for the Hornets, and Lawrence and Derek Beck each scored 12.
“We’ve shot the 3 really well in a couple of games recently,” Farriell said. “We got to where we rely on it too much. The percentages don’t go to your favor when you’re shooting 3s that much. We have to understand that, or we’re going to get beat Saturday night.”
Erik Crenshaw led Crowder with 12 points, and Weeks scored 10. Crenshaw opened the game with a 3-pointer, and his steal turned into a jump shot from Weeks and a 6-0 Demons lead early in the first.
Stuart quickly battled back, with Sam Mitchell eventually tying the game 8-8 with a 3-pointer. Mike White’s free throw gave Crowder the lead again, but Wilson knocked down a 3-pointer to put Stuart back up 11-9, and the Hornets led the rest of the game.
“The game plan was to get offensive rebounds, keep them off boards, keep attacking the basket,” Crowder coach Will Holiman Jr. said. “We quit doing that. We didn’t stick to the gameplan.”
Crowder will play Kiowa in the third-place game Friday at 8:30 p.m.
Lady Panthers 60, Lady Bulldogs 56:
Savanna’s defense threw off Pittsburg’s ball-handlers, but mounting fouls forced the Lady Bulldogs to go further and further down their depth chart.
The Lady Panthers didn’t shoot well at the free-throw line overall, but Mikal Wainscott shot Pittsburg into its first Pitt 8 championship game since 1977.
Wainscott (13 points) knocked down four free throws in a row in the final minute, helping the Lady Panthers beat the Lady Bulldogs 60-56 in the semifinals.
Pittsburg plays Kiowa in the championship Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
“One thing that makes me nervous for Saturday, I know that we’re going to be a nervous wreck Saturday night playing Kiowa out here,” Pittsburg coach Wes Wood said. “(Kiowa’s) used to it. They’ve played in the state tournament.”
Wood added, “When you shoot 16 out of 38 free throws, you make it tough on yourself.”
Savanna led by as many as 14 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Bulldogs’ inability to defend without fouling kept sending Pittsburg to the line. Chandler Billingsley (with a team-high 18 points) knocked down two free throws, then after a Savanna miss Billingsley found Erin Cross for a 3-pointer that made it 40-34 Savanna.
Another 3-pointer by Cross pulled Pittsburg within 2, but Payton Little knocked down a jump shot for a 47-43 lead going into the fourth quarter. Savanna built its lead back to 8 early in the fourth, but Leighah Carney and Wainscott went a combined 5-for-6 at the line to pull to within 3.
After misses by both sides, Cross’ 3-pointer tied the game 51-51, and fouls had long since put Pittsburg into the bonus. Billingsley’s layup put the Lady Panthers up 53-52 with two minutes left in the game, but Destiny Raleigh tied the game with a free throw.
A defensive rebound led to a layup by Trinity Johns and a 2-point Savanna lead, but Billingsley got 1 point back with a free throw. Savanna turned over its next possession, then Billingsley found Wainscott in the low post for a layup and a 56-55 lead with 48.6 seconds left.
Raleigh again tied the game with a free throw, but she fouled out with 34.2 seconds left, sending Wainscott to the line in the process.
Wainscott knocked down both free throws to put Pittsburg up 58-56. After securing a defensive rebound on the opposite end — a rarity for the Lady Panthers on Thursday — Wainscott knocked down two more for a 4-point lead.
“I just try to concentrate on the rim and picture myself making it before I shoot,” Wainscott said. “Today was one of my best free throw-shooting days I’ve had in a while.”
A shut-down defender who also gave Pittsburg’s defense fits, Raleigh scored 25 points for Savanna. Raleigh and teammate Jordin Wilson, the Lady Bulldogs’ most-veteran players, had to sit throughout the second half with four fouls apiece, stagnating Savanna’s offense and allowing Pittsburg to mount a comeback.
“The fouls were a little ridiculous,” Savanna coach Diane Inman said.
Payton Little scored 16 for the Lady Bulldogs. Savanna plays Stuart in the third-place game Friday at 7:10 p.m.
Warriors 60, Cowboys 59:
Upsetting a higher seed in the Pitt 8 Tournament, like the Haileyville Warriors did Tuesday, is pretty cool.
But beating a top-15 team in Class A, like the Warriors did to the Kiowa Cowboys on Thursday? That’s a whole other story.
Powered by 22 points from Bryer Stites — including the eventual game-winning free throw — the Warriors shocked the Cowboys 60-59 in Thursday’s semifinal of the Pitt 8 Tournament.
Haileyville plays Stuart in the championship Saturday at 8 p.m.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is the biggest win in Haileyville history,” Haileyville coach Jody Hull said.
The Warriors hung with the Cowboys the entire game, changing leads throughout and never allowing the Cowboys more than a couple of baskets in a row. Clay Doyle’s 3-pointer for Kiowa tied the game 49-49 to start the fourth quarter, but Haileyville went back up 2 on a pass from Jason Mayo to Stites.
Another 3-pointer from Doyle put Kiowa back up by 1, then a pass from Tristian McMath to Brice Smith led to a layup and a 54-51 lead. But again Stites scored, this time off a pass from Jordan Smith, then Smith’s layup put Haileyville back up 55-54.
Two free throws from Brice Smith switched leads again, then his layup pushed the lead to 3. But on the opposite end, Haileyville guard Tristan Tiger (16 points) knocked down one of his four 3-pointers to tie the game, deflating Kiowa’s defense.
“If we’re down and it looks like we’ll need a 3, then I’ll just pull it up, regardless of if (the defender) is on me or not,” Tiger said. “But if Coach is telling us to hold the ball and pass it around, then I’ll just pass it.”
Stites and Brice Smith traded free throws to maintain the tie, but Stites then went back to the line and sank another for a 60-59 lead. Stites shot 6-for-9 at the foul line.
“The man-to-man plays, they couldn’t stop them,” Stites said, adding that the high-low post plays worked particularly well for the Warriors.
“Jason Mayo, he’s a killer at it. He can get it lobbed in there and get it to me.”
The Cowboys had plenty of chances to tie the game or retake the lead despite the short amount of time left in the game. But Doyle went 0-for-2 at the foul line — his second 0-for-2 in his final two trips to the line — missing badly and looking extremely frustrated.
Though Stites and Tiger both missed free throws in the final minute, Stites blocked Kiowa on the Cowboys’ second-to-last possession. Brice Smith missed on his last shot of the game, and though Caden Shores grabbed the rebound, he couldn’t score either and time ran out without a third shot.
“We didn’t do our part, and we missed some shots that we usually make,” Kiowa coach Keith Quaid said.
“Just give Haileyville the credit. They came out and punched us in the mouth and just beat our butts.”
Brice Smith led Kiowa with 21 points. The Cowboys play Crowder in the third-place game tonight at 8:30 p.m.
Contact Matt Goisman at Mgoisman@mcalesternews.com.