MIAMI — The Wardogs may have gotten over the hump Thursday night.
At least Miami coach Rusty Mercer hopes so.
His Dogs have blown fourth-quarter leads in three of the past four games, but they managed to keep the ship on course during a wild final two minutes to preserve a 40-38 win over Seneca at the Miami Activity Center.
“We talked about it at length about getting over the hump and what it’s going to take,” Mercer said. “One of the things we left them with in the locker room the other night (in a 52-47 loss Tuesday night at St. Mary’s Colgan in Pittsburg, Kansas) is when it comes time to win a game in the last part of the fourth quarter, we haven’t guarded anybody. Our defense has really let us down.
“It’s not really about scoring. In a game like that, in one-possession or two-possession games, we really haven’t defended.”
The Wardogs — whose only other win came against Seneca — were headed down that slippery slope again in the final four minutes of Thursday's rematch.
A 29-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter turned into a 32-29 deficit when Seneca’s Gavin Dunnam and Nate Williams turned in back-to-back conventional three-point plays.
“I gave them a pretty good ‘do better’ talk,” Mercer said of a time out he called with 5:06 remaining.
“We really got down and guarded, got in stances. That first possession out of it, we guarded for about 15 passes. They didn’t get a good look at the basket. We had four or five stops in a row and got enough baskets to get over the hump.”
A shot from outside by Kai Hamilton gave the Wardogs a 33-32 advantage with 3:37 remaining in regulation.
There would be four lead changes, the last coming with 68 seconds left on a 3-point bomb by Kameron Jinks.
“It had a lot of ebbs and flows,” Mercer said.
A pair of free throws from Kaleb Jinks — his only points of the night — sealed the win.
The Indians created the final score with 1.6 seconds left on a put-back by Cameron Brattin.
“I am proud of these guys because they stuck with it and work hard every day,” Mercer said. “They needed to get over the hump.”
The game was a low-scoring nail biter through the first two quarters.
Each team scored eight points in the opening frame, and then Miami held an 8-7 edge in the second period.
The Wardogs opened up their three-point lead heading into the final stanza thanks to a 14-12 edge.
Kameron Jinks finished with a game-high 20 points.
The Dogs also got six each from Conner Womack and Hamilton. Jack Osborn added four and Eli Coyne chipped in with two points.
Williams had 13 and Dunnam added 10 for the Indians.
Neither team put on a stellar performance from the field.
Miami shot 36 percent (16-of-44) while the Indians’ field goal percentage was 28 percent (11-of-40).
The Dogs found the mark on only 3 of 18 3-point attempts and Seneca was 5-of-14.
Miami is idle until Tuesday, when it hosts Claremore Sequoyah in Verdigris Valley Conference play.