It was a case of ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda' for Miami Thursday night in its 42-40 loss to Mannford in the first round of the 62nd annual Northeastern A&M High School Basketball Tournament.
The Wardogs trailed by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter but cut that back to one on a baseline drive by Keith Freeman with 12.1 seconds remaining.
A free throw by Matt Woodson barely two seconds later created the final margin of victory.
However, Miami made things interesting when Michael Anderson heaved a halfcourt shot that hit the front of the rim and bounced away as the horn sounded.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Miami coach Rusty Mercer said. “We're kicking ourselves a little bit. We played the first half kinds flat. We were pretty disappointed in that part of it, but we put ourselves in position against a really good basketball team. We just couldn't get it done.
“You look back at lot of things and there were a lot of key moments late where you think ‘what if' or ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda.'”
The loss was just the third of the season for the Wardogs, who had not played since Jan. 9. It showed in the first half as they managed only 10 points in the first quarter and 17 in the half.
“I was concerned about that,” Mercer said. “I thought we'd had a good week of practice during the time we were off and this week. They caused us some problems with things they were doing defensively and the big kid (6-5 senior center Sam Bartlett) has a presence we haven't seen this year. They did a lot of switching on defense that bogged us down quite a bit offensively.”
Mannford opened up a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter thanks to a follow shot by Bartlett with 19.9 seconds remaining.
The Wardogs methodically began to chisel away at the deficit in the final frame, melting the Mannford lead down to five and then to three on a 12-foot bank shot by Cody Corntassel.
Woodson hit the front end of a one-and-one to give the Pirates a 41-38 lead with 33.2 seconds remaining.
Freeman's drive to the basket along the right baseline got Miami back to within one point.
“We were just too inefficient on offense,” Mercer said. “We did a little better in the second half. We went inside quite a bit more and took advantage of some things. It was disappointing because we had chance to beat a good basketball team.”
Anderson finished with a team-high 17 points for the Wardogs. Corntassel added nine.
Bennett, who missed six games with a broken hand, had 18 points for the Pirates.
“Our guys don't feel good at all right now,” Mercer said. “We don't have to sit around two or three days. We get to play tomorrow night. Our guys usually bounce back. We're looking forward to getting back out on the floor and getting something done in a positive direction.”
The Wardogs bounce back and play Wagoner today at 7:30 p.m. in the NEO Fieldhouse.
They wrap up round-robin play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Springfield (Mo.) Central.