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Former Metro Lakes Conference foes come together for exciting back and forth contest

The Claremore Zebras came into Tuesday’s 5A District 3 matchup looking for revenge after suffering a loss to Tahlequah on the Tigers homecourt Dec. 21. The Tigers came into the game reeling, losing three of their last four. The result would find the Tigers on the wrong side of the score again, but not without a fight, falling in overtime 65-67.

Early in the matchup the Tigers seemed to have righted the ship, taking the early 8-5 lead halfway through the first quarter with good defensive pressure and ball movement on offense. The Zebra’s had their own defensive pressure and forced the Tigers into six turnovers to change the momentum of the game, going on a 14-2 run to end the quarter.

Both teams exhibited stout defenses at the beginning of the second quarter. Tahlequah scored and ended the Zebra run. At the 5:26 mark, the frustration of the Tigers bubbled up when Senior Donovan Smith was called for an intentional foul while going for a rebound on his missed shot.

The game turned chippy from here on, with things seemed to get personal on both sides. Claremore was able to sink one of the free throws, taking a 20-12 lead. At the 4:19 mark, Jordan Dougherty was called for an offensive foul while going for a rebound. While walking away, a Claremore player swiped at the ball, was caught by the referee, and was called for a technical foul. Cash McAlvain was able to sink both free throws. This seemed to ignite the Tigers, going on a 15-4 run until Claremore was able to hit a three to end the half with the Tigers only down two, 25-27.

The third quarter was a see-saw affair with multiple ties and both teams were only able to build a four-point lead multiple times. Defense and hustle was on the script for both teams.

Turnovers would once again hurt the Tigers and free throws carried the Zebras. Tahlequah was able to tie the score to begin the quarter with a smooth jumper from Smith, assisted from Zeke Guerrero.

Claremore was able to build the lead back to four until it was tied again at 31 on a nifty drive and scoop by McAlvain. The Tigers were able to take the lead 35-33 on a steal and score by Guerrero that was followed by a Tiger stop that led to a McAlvain drive. That allowed the Tigers to take a four-point lead. Tahlequah was able to hold that lead for the rest of the quarter, taking a 39-35 lead into the fourth.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Zebras were gifted a four-point trip down the court. It started when they sunk one of two shots from the free-throw line followed by a botched inbound by the Tigers, which led to a three pointer off the glass and tying the game at 39.

The Tigers would not let it discourage them though, taking a five-point lead with a Guerrero three-point shot at the 5:12 mark, 46-41. Claremore quickly answered with two quick three-point shots of their own, taking the lead back.

The biggest lead of the quarter for Claremore was achieved at the 3:14 mark when they sunk their fifth three in a row. A big play in the game occurred at the 2:02 mark when Smith was whistled for a reach-in on a rebound attempt, raking a Claremore player across the face.

This would loom large later in the game. Smith would close the lead to 1 with a steal and layup.

Coming out of a Claremore timeout, J.J. Antwine, getting major minutes down the stretch, would force a Zebra miscue and get the assist on a McAlvain three-point shot, putting the Tigers back in the lead.

Claremore would tie the game on their ensuing possession from the free-throw line and then force another errant inbound from the Tigers. The Zebras would make the Tigers pay with a layup off the miscue, taking the lead by two and going into the final minute of regulation.

Smith was able to tie the game by getting his 20 points of the game with a tough jumper with 30 seconds to play. Claremore was unable to hit their 11, three-point shot of the game at the end of regulation and forcing the game into extra time 59-59.

Another big play of the game occurred off the tip. The Zebras controlled the tip and drove to the basket, out of control and losing the ball out of bounds. All three refs found themselves out of position with only one being on that side of the court and on the opposite side.

The call was made to allow the Zebras to retain possession. Claremore took advantage of their good fortune, scoring on a layup with their extra possession. The Tigers defense was forced to play the three-point line because of the hot shooting of the Zebras, resulting in multiple layups given up in overtime.

At the 1:13 mark, Smith found himself slightly out of position on a baseline drive, picking up his fifth foul. Smith was responsible for a large portion of the Tiger offense down the stretch, at times being automatic from the court.

Claremore missed both free throws and fouled Dougherty on the rebound. He was able to tie the game at 65, hitting one of two. Claremore once again missed both free throws but was able to steal the ball from Dougherty after he secured the rebound.

McAlvain stole the ball back with 42 seconds remaining in the extra period, with the score still tied. On the ensuing Tiger possession, McAlvain missed a jumper with 12 seconds remaining.

Off the rebound, Claremore was able to get a good kickout with all the Tigers crashing the boards and able to sink a contested layup for a two-point lead with seven seconds remaining.

After a Tiger timeout to set up a play, the Tigers inbounded the ball with 5.7 seconds remaining. McAlvain was able to get off a good look at a three-point for the win but was slightly long giving the Zebras the win 67-65.

The keys to the game were 18 turnovers by the Tigers, along with 65 percent free-throw shooting going 11-17. Claremore had a hot three-point shooting night, going 10-22 including a 5-5 stretch in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers were paced by Smith with 22 points, followed by McAlvain with 17. Cole Robertson was a perfect 5-5 from the court for 11 points, Guerrero had nine points and four steals, Gage Hodgson had three, Antwine contributed two, and Dougherty had 1.

What’s next

The Tigers will go against the Grove Ridgerunners at the TMAC, Jan. 26, with tipoff coming at 6 p.m.


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