McALESTER — When the McAlester Buffaloes knock down shots, they’ve shown they can hang with even ranked Class 5A teams.
But when the Buffs’ shooting goes cold, wins can be pretty tough to come by.
McAlester’s scoring dropped drastically after the first quarter, allowing the Deer Creek Antlers to come back and beat the Buffs 62-53 on Friday at Bob Brumley Gymnasium in McAlester.
“They scored 21 points in the first quarter,” Deer Creek coach Matt Bailey said of McAlester. “That’s probably the second most we’ve given up this year in a single quarter.
“We finally started tightening up our defense. We stopped letting them have wide-open 3s, we made them work more, made them take tougher shots, and eventually it started working towards our favor.”
Though Todd Dawkins’ layup put McAlester up 35-34 early in the third quarter, Tyler Haddock’s 3-pointer gave Deer Creek a lead it never relinquished. Haddock knocked down two free throws to extend the lead, and though Jalen Erving knocked down a 3-pointer for the Buffs, Elyjah Clark knocked a 3-pointer down on the opposite end.
Brett Valentine’s free throws then put Deer Creek up 44-38. Valentine scored 15 for Deer Creek, shooting 7-for-8 at the foul line.
With the Antlers still leading late in the fourth, McAlester had to foul to stop the clock, and Valentine’s free throws kept the Buffs from getting on any kind of a scoring run.
“I just don’t think about anything else,” Valentine said. “I just kind of clear my mind and focus. ... When the crowd is just getting all up in my business, I have a lot more motivation to just hit it and silence them.”
Making the most of Senior Night, Buffs senior center De’Angelo Rhone almost single-handedly brought the Buffs back in the third quarter. He scored off a pass from Texas Pascale, then grabbed an offensive rebound on McAlester’s next possession, drew a foul and sank both free throws to cut the lead to 44-42.