The McAlester Buffaloes entered Friday’s regional semifinal having exited their previous three postseasons after just one game.
Never underestimate a team that knows it’s been underestimated.
Todd Dawkins and Jalen Erving scored a combined 47 points, helping the Buffs upset the 10th-ranked and heavily favored East Central Cardinals 66-62 Friday at Bishop Kelley in Tulsa.
With the win, McAlester automatically qualified for next weekend’s area tournament. McAlester played Bishop Kelley in the regional championship Saturday. See McAlesterNews.com for Saturday’s results.
“No one believed in us,” Erving said. “The only people who believed in us was our team. So we just used that as our advantage to come here and play mad.”
A 46-46 game after three quarters, East Central went up 5 when Jeffrey Pittman put back an offensive rebound, drew a foul and sank the free throw, then Burke Putnam scored a layup after a McAlester miss. But Erving stole away the Cardinals’ next possession, then found Eli Boyle on the fastbreak for a layup.
East Central missed its next shot, then Austin Taylor kept McAlester’s next possession alive with an offensive rebound. The ball eventually found its way to Erving, who sank a layup, drew a foul and converted it to tie the game 51-51 with 5:05 left in the fourth.
Erving put the Buffs up 56-53 with a 3-pointer, then came away with a steal and a fastbreak layup to give the Buffs a 5-point lead with 2:15 left in the game. Erving finished with 24 points.
Another offensive rebound led to another score by Pittman for East Central, but the Buffs successfully ran the clock down to 55 seconds before the Cardinals finally fouled Erving for a 1-and-1.
Erving sank both free throws to keep it a 5-point game. Pittman missed on the opposite end, Texas Pascale grabbed the defensive rebound and also sank both free throws for his fifth and sixth points of the game.