TULSA — The McAlester Lady Buffaloes looked doomed at halftime, shot themselves back into the game in the third but came up one possession short.
The Lady Ridgerunners survived five Lady Buffs shots on the final possession of the game to beat McAlester 38-37 in Thursday’s Class 5A regional semifinal at the Edison Preparatory Athletic Center in Tulsa.
Grove, the No. 12 team in Class 5A, improved to 15-8 with the elimination win and qualified for the East Area tournament. McAlester, the No. 20 team, ended its season 7-16.
“They fought a great fight,” Lady Buffs coach April Burns said. “We’re really proud of their effort. We have not seen them fight back very much whenever they’ve been behind.”
Kelsey Gorham’s pass to Lilly Jeffries led to a Grove layup and a 33-28 lead early in the fourth quarter. Grove came up with blocks on McAlester’s next two possessions, but the Lady Ridgerunners couldn’t capitalize, with Delaney Nix grabbing a steal following Grove’s second block.
Nix then took a pass from Taylor Compton and banked in a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game. Another free throw from Nix pulled the Lady Buffs to within 1 point with 1:09 left in the game, but Karah Bassett answered with two free throws to push the lead back to 36-33.
Nix answered with a jumper on the opposite end. Grove went up 38-35 on two free throws sandwiched around an offensive rebound from Paige Miller, but the Lady Ridgerunners shot just 5-for-15 at the foul line in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Buffs nearly tied the game when Nix dribbled into the high post, then at the last moment bounced a pass to Taryn Howard for a layup and a foul. Howard missed the free throw, leaving Grove up 38-37 with 26.1 seconds left in the game.
Miller missed both free throws on the opposite end, giving the Lady Buffs one last possession. Compton missed a fadeway from just outside the low post, but the Lady Buffs got the ball back when referees called traveling against Jeffries, who’d secured the rebound.
The Lady Buffs inbounded the ball to Bren Cable, but Grove blocked the shot out of bounds. They next went to Compton, but again Grove blocked the shot out of bounds with 7.1 seconds left.
McAlester missed its next shot, but Howard pulled down an offensive rebound. Nix got the ball for one last jumper from just inside the 3-point line, but the shot fell short of the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
Nix led the game with 14 points. Her pass to Taylor Compton led to a 3-pointer on the first play of the second half, then Compton later got it to Katelynn Creekmore for another 3-pointer.
Bassett answered with a 3-pointer, but Nix answered right back with a 3-pointer of her own. Compton’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 25-24, then Creekmore hit two free throws with 3:13 left in the third to put McAlester ahead 26-25.
The sequence finished an 8-point comeback and gave the Lady Buffs their first lead since Howard’s free throws made it 12-11 Lady Buffs two minutes into the second quarter. The lead lasted just two possessions, with Grove coming up with a steal and Libby Morris getting it to Gorham for a layup, foul and free throw.
Morris led Grove with 10 points, and Grove led for the rest of the game following her transition basket. Bassett and Gorham both scored 9 for Grove.
“We didn’t make our free throws like we should have, and in the third quarter they came in and hit four 3s, two of them off the glass,” Grove coach Richard Bassett said.
“I thought we could do better than what we did, but they just shot the ball so well tonight.”
Compton scored 11 for McAlester, and Creekmore scored 7. The loss meant the end of basketball for seniors Creekmore, Vhitney Garner and Shattee Robinson, but Nix, Compton and Howard (5 points) are all among underclassmen expected to return next season.
“It came down to the very end, some free throws and block-outs,” Nix said. “I think we had that game. We just let it go at the very end.”
The Lady Buffs went back and fourth throughout the first quarter, with McAlester going up 2-0 on Creekmore’s deep jumper and 5-2 on Nix’s 3-pointer. Morris’ jumper later put Grove up 11-8, but free throws from Compton and then Howard made it 12-11 Lady Buffs in the second quarter.
Morgan Hayes answered with a layup for Grove, sparking a 9-0 run that made it 20-12 Lady Ridgerunners at halftime.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.