MIAMI – Despite struggling to find a rhythm in the first half, Miami boys' coach Rusty Mercer knew it would just be a matter of time before his Wardogs hit stride in Tuesday's season opener with Jay.
Trailing 26-16 at the break, MHS saw Jay go up by 12 less than a minute into the third quarter on a shot from inside by the Bulldogs' Stormy Taylor.
But a layup by Colt Summers gave the Wardogs a much needed boost, and it sent them on a game-turning 15-2 run.
The teams wound up going to overtime, but Miami eked out a 47-44 victory at the Miami Activity Center.
“There was some concern by me (at the half), but I really felt like we would make a run,” Mercer said. “To win a game like that, you have to be sound on the defensive end because that is the only way you are going to get back into the game. Even if you catch fire offensively, you still have to defend on the other end. That is the only way you can make up ground.
“Going in to the game, I had been fairly pleased with our defense for the most part in the preseason and our offense has been a little inconsistent. That's the way it was last night, especially in the first half.”
Miami were up 31-30 by the end of the third quarter, then the Bulldogs used a 12-11 margin in the fourth to force the overtime.
There, three free throws by Summers down the stretch sealed the win for the Wardogs, who now have won 10 straight season openers.
“They kinda fell into the trap we did (in the third quarter),” Mercer said. “They started taking some contested shots and got some quick possessions – almost like you get into a panic mode. The key was that we rebounded during that stretch. They got one shot; we went to the other end. That allowed us to get into some kind of rhythm on offense, too. You give up a number of offensive rebounds, it takes away from your rhythm and its a deflating thing.”
Summers finished with 22 points and Kameron Jinks added 12. Caden Mercer chipped in with eight, Alec Hayward – who grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds - scored three points and Ben Pulley netted two.
Gabe Simpson had 16 points to lead the Jay scoring. Garrett Sweeney chipped in with nine.
Miami now will be idle until next Thursday when it begins play in the Seneca Invitational.
Friday's game against Oologah has been postponed until a later date since its football team will be playing Wagoner in the Class 4A state championship game.
“We're able to take some time now,” Rusty Mercer said. “We've needed to clean some things up to begin with. Now we've had a real game. This gives us a chance to prepare and make more adjustments.”
Miami's girls look to bounce back from a 50-32 loss to Jay.
Taylor Stepp hit a pair of free throws to give Miami a brief one-point lead, 24-23, in the early seconds of the third period, but Jay used an 8-0 run to take the lead for good.
The Lady Bulldogs eventually would open up a 20-point advantage late in the game.
Taking care of the things they can take care of has been stressed by first-year coach Liz Weeks and assistant Chuck Preaus.
“We don't want to become comfortable with being mediocre with a season of 1-20 like they were last year,” Weeks said. “We want to win, but first and foremost, we want to take care of the controllables: the rebounding, the effort, the communication. A lot of people thinks its points and offenses, but it's not. It's controlling the boards and defending. We will work on that.”
Stepp had a team-high 18 points for the Lady Wardogs, netting 11 of that on free throws.