Without two of its high-scoring starters, Pryor came out the victor 56-53 over Tahlequah at home Friday.
Though plagued by low scoring in the opening period, 10-10, the team’s tempo and intensity could’ve been easily mistaken as a playoff game to onlookers.
Tahlequah’s approach was nothing short of an “in your face” defensive mentality.
Pryor players responded with their own “chip on the shoulder” disposition.
While Pryor’s attitude, one governed by an appropriate competitive nastiness, was steadfast, its offense seemed rattled via poorly rushed shots.
When Robert Ross went down with a turned ankle in the first, an all-star injured list began to take form, as senior Chase Ross suffered a torn acl less than a week ago.
“Partly, they came out and tried to smack us in the mouth,” Pryor Head Coach Greg Arnold said. “I told them to expect it, and it did rattle us a bit. At the break I told them we’ve got to be the aggressors, and they came out and were. This was a playoff intensity game, so it was good to be exposed to that...and even better to have responded with an aggressive demeanor.”
Tahlequah led by three at the break, and the odds appeared to favor the visitors as the second half began.
Senior Zac Baumert’s hot hand tilted the scales.
A 3-pointer out of the gate was an encouraging sign. Back-to-back treys a few possessions later caused eyebrows an involuntary raise.
The next two consecutive from downtown solidified a third quarter arrival: a senior pointguard in an undeniable zone.
Baumert followed the three-point clinic by slashing the lane for two points and a foul (he made), taking a different route to his third quarter signature three-point scoring.
“I didn’t even think they were going in,” Baumert said. “ But after the third one, I just kept shooting. It was exciting, and this is the first time I’ve ever played with emotion. For me though, I’m pleased doing whatever needs to be done to help us win as a team.”
Tahlequah fought through Baumert’s onslaught with its own sharp shooting, and with 13.3 seconds left, Pryor led by one.
Tahlequah fouled Baumert, who put the nail in the coffin, sinking both free throws.