MOORE — Moore players have said all year that when they play their best, they can beat the top teams in the state. With its hyper-frenzied offense and constant pressure defense, it can easily overwhelm opposing teams.
The Lions had a chance to prove that theory Saturday in the finals of the John Nobles Invitational Tournament. Facing No. 1 Bishop McGuiness, it was their chance to show they belong.
Unfortunately for MHS, they fell 62-61 in a hard fought game. But they may still have left with a belief they can be one top teams at the end of the year.
“Our boys fought hard,” Moore coach Aaron Howell said. “(Bishop McGuiness) is a very, very well disciplined team, well coached team, very mature kids. That was a tough game. Probably the toughest game we’ve played all year. They pulled a lot out of us. I think we pulled a little bit out of them. But I am proud of our boys. I think we are in the right direction.”
Throughout the night, the top-ranked Irish had opportunities to put the Lions away. But every time they built their lead to double digits, Moore would find a way to fight its way back into the contest.
“Just making the correcting substitutions and guys coming in and realizing it wasn’t about them,” Howell said. “We have our strengths, we pressure and make them turn it over. That got us back in the game.
Late in the contest, the Irish were called for an intentional foul and Maurice Davenport hit both free throws. The Irish led 56-54.
Dante Bulter forced Gregg Roberts into a turnover and Jaylon Wilson turned it into a 3-pointer to put the Lions down by one. After another turnover, Butler hit a pair of free throws and Moore led 59-56 with 2:50 on the clock.
With 32.5 seconds left, David love put the Irish up 62-61 at the charity stripe. Moore got the ball for the final shot. After almost turning it over, Davenport got off a mid-range jumper at the buzzer that was off the mark.
“Just miss communication on our part,” Davenport said. “Just our fault. We have to work on that in practice Monday and get it straight so it won’t happen again.”
Love paced Bishop McGuinnes with 20 points. Will Leinhard scored 14.
Wilson led the Lions with 19 points. Butler added 17. Dorian Gigger was held to single digits, but he made on impact on both ends of the floor.
“It was a tough game,” Irish coach Tondrell Durham said. “They are really good. I wouldn’t want to play them in the p layoffs. They have some good pieces. I tell you what, if I was a college coach, I would at least look at Gigger’s grades and give that kid a chance. He’s a good player. We did a good job of locating him.”
The Lions have five games left in the regular season. That includes facing Norman North Friday and the No. 1 team in 6A Midwest City Feb. 5. The Lions hope to keep the lessons learned from its loss to Bishop McGuiness as they get ready for the postseason.
“It was tough,” Davenport said. “We were so close. The No. 1 team in 5A and we were sticking with them the whole time playing as a team. Just have to move on to the next one.”
Ponca City 51, Southmoore 41 (3rd place)
After going into halftime tied, the SaberCats were outscored 15-9 in the third quarter and were unable to make a run in the fourth.
Darius Hodge paced Southmoore with 11 points. Justin Bean scored 7 and Preston Smith added 6.
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com