Quantel Givens’ 3-pointer made it 62-58 Buffs with 37.5 seconds left, but the Cardinals had to put Dawkins on the foul line, and Dawkins sank both. McAlester shot a perfect 11-for-11 on free throws in the fourth quarter, with Boyle, Dawkins, Erving and Pascale all draining free throws in the final minute to keep the Cardinals from tying the game.
“We shoot 50 (free throws) after every practice, every day,” Dawkins said.
“I just kind of make sure I’m not paying attention to anyone in the crowd and focus.”
Dawkins proved essential in helping the Buffs overcome a 12-point deficit. After Cuintin Baker’s layup pushed East Central’s lead to 25-13, Dawkins scored a layup, then drew a foul after completing the shot.
The foul gave possession to McAlester, and Boyle eventually found Dawkins for a 3-pointer that cut the lead to 25-18. Dawkins drained another 3-pointer off a pass from Pascale, and after DC Pitts sank two free throws, Dawkins ran a backdoor cut, caught a pass from Pascale in the air and laid it in for the alley-oop that made it 27-23.
Dawkins finished with 23 points.
Erving’s layup eventually made it a one-possession game, and after Putnam went 1-for-2 at the foul line, Erving found Dawkins for a 3-pointer that tied the game 28-28. A pass from Keaton Slater to Pascale led to a layup and a McAlester lead, then Erving drained a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the half to make it 33-28 Buffs.
“We just kind of got some shots to fall, kept our composure, didn’t allow adversity to affect us (and) kept playing hard,” Buffs coach Chris Zike said Friday night.
“First time in four years to win a playoff game, the kids are excited. ... We’re hoping to take care of business tomorrow (in the regional championship) and be one win away from the state tournament.”