“He gets frustrated pretty easy, so I just kinda used that to my advantage,” Lowe said of Erving. “Got into him, chirped a little bit. ... He got angry pretty quickly, and when you’re mad, you don’t play well.”
Lowe’s jump shot made it a 2-point game early in the second quarter. Lowe eventually tied the game 21-21 with another jumper, and though Erving’s 3-pointer gave McAlester the lead again, Tyler Shade later went on the fastbreak off a Lions defensive rebound and drew a foul.
Shade missed both free throws, but McAlester couldn’t control the defensive rebound, and the ball went out of bounds and stayed with Durant. Zac Cater then scored a layup, drew a foul and sank the free throw to tie the game.
Austin Taylor’s layup gave McAlester one last lead, but Cater’s put-back on an offensive rebound tied the game, then Lowe gave the Lions the lead for good with a layup. Erving missed two free throws that would’ve tied the game, then Durant center James Donelan sank a layup and got a free throw out of it to give the Lions a 31-26 halftime lead.
Though Buffs center Keaton Slater held the much-taller Donelan in check in the first quarter, Donelan became tougher and tougher to guard as the game went on. He scored 15 points and also made it almost impossible for the Buffs to score in the paint, blocking multiple shots but committing just one foul.
“James is a big help, because if we don’t do our job up front, if we get lazy, we kind of just let him do his thing up front and cover for us,” Lowe said of Donelan. “He’s the best shot-blocker in the state.”
McAlester’s defense struggled early in the third quarter, with the Lions scoring on five of their first seven possessions to go up 44-37. Eli Boyle’s jump shot eventually cut the lead to 48-45, but two free throws from Cater and 4 points from Donelan pushed the lead to 54-45, and the Buffs never got close again.