VINITA — Problems at the free throw line stung Miami again.

The Wardogs were 1-of-7 at the stripe in the second half and just 5-of-13 on the night during Tuesday night’s 61-53 loss to Vinita.

“We killed ourself on the free throw line again,” said Miami coach Rusty Mercer, who fell to 0-2 against his former Northeastern A&M roomie, Vinita coach Tony Roach.

The Wardogs were only 8 of 18 overall and 1 of 4 down the stretch in a 59-53 loss to Vinita last month in Miami.

“We missed some big ones down the stretch,” Mercer said. “We’ve just got to step up.”

MHS will see the Hornets again in 10 days – the teams square off in the Class 4A Area III District x tournament on Feb. 20.

The Wardogs have lost three straight, but Mercer was concerned after the way things had gone in back-to-back losses to Wagoner and Pryor.

“I was proud of our effort,” Mercer said. “I feel much better about where we’re going than I was a couple nights ago.”

The Wardogs carried a 31-29 lead into the half, but a 13-8 edge in the third quarter gave the hosts a 42-39 lead heading into the final stanza.

A layup and a jumper from the middle of the lane by Johnny Brice pulled the Wardogs to within one, 46-45, with 2:58 remaining.

But a free throw by Dee Willis started the hosts on a 15-8 run down the stretch.

They led by as many as nine points before Trent Turner nailed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left.

“Both games against them, we just didn’t finish down the stretch,” Mercer said. “I liked our effort, though. Obviously, we took care of the basketball in a tough place to play against a really good basketball team.”

The Wardogs had only five turnovers all night, and one of those was fluky — Brice slipped and fell on a wet spot on the Sooter Gymnasium floor, resulting in a traveling call despite Mercer’s protest.

“That’s great, though,” Mercer said. “That’s been a big point of emphasis coming in because we’d been really careless lately, making a lot of mistakes that were self-inflicted.”

Turner headed up the Miami scoring with 17 points. Brice chipped in with 10.

Freshman Jake Bullard scored 20 to lead three Hornets in double figures.

Miami heads down the stretch, hosting Locust Grove on Friday and Grove next Monday.

Miami    16    15    8    14 — 53

Vinita    12    17    13    19 — 61

Miami — Turner 17, Brice 10, Pogue 7, Rodriguez 6, Pickens 5, Blevins 3, Millard 3, Hunter 2.

Vinita — Bullard 20, Willis 17, Hext 11, Roach 7, Page 4, Ebbs 2.

3-point goals — Turner 2, Pickens 1, Pogue 1, Hext 3, Bullard 2, Roach 1.