McALESTER — Winning seven games this season, the McAlester Buffaloes have already done better than they did last season.
When they face the East Central Cardinals tonight in the regional semifinals at Bishop Kelley, the Buffs will try to do what no boys’ basketball team has done since 2010: win a playoff game.
“The guys that are out there are the guys we’re going to count on,” Buffs coach Chris Zike said. “I just feel like they’re really, all of them, buying into their role a little better, and it’s important to them. It’s important to these seniors. It’s been four years now since we’ve ever won a playoff game, and they want to do that.”
The Cardinals enter the postseason with an 11-10 record and a No. 10 ranking in Class 5A. Freshman point guard Burke Putnam runs the offense, working with senior shooting guard Quantel Givens and senior small forward DC Pitts.
“He’s very athletic,” Cardinals coach Lynnwood Wade said of Pitts. “He can jump. He just plays hard. This year, he’s been able to shoot 3s, and he’s been able to get to the bucket.”
Wade added that Givens and Pitts are “interchangeable,” with Givens able to knock down outside shots. Pitts, meanwhile, is one of the team’s best defenders and plays his position as both a 3-guard and a small forward.
Moving to East Central’s frontcourt, junior power forward Jeff Pittman is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game, according to Wade.
“He pretty much can do it all, also,” Wade said of Pittman. “He can shoot it from outside, he can post, he can get to the rim.”
Junior center Jonathan Johnson rounds out the starting five at center. Wade said Johnson “pretty much does what we need him to do.”