Minutes after the final buzzer sounded, Ardmore coach Kevin Kelly was still gritting his teeth, fighting to hide his frustration.
Not in his team, but the unluckiness of the night. If the Tigers get one or two more shots to fall, they're winners. Instead, Class 5A No. 10 Lawton MacArthur escaped from Ardmore 32-28 in a game where the Tigers again played strong defensive basketball.
The Highlanders managed to go 3 of 4 from the line in the final seconds to close the game to fight off Ardmore's late run. Prior to that, for four quarters, Ardmore (10-11) saw 3-pointers halfway down the cylinder roll out and several other shots fail to go down in the defensive battle.
All they needed was one shot, and the game could have been different, said Kelly.
"Story of the night," Kelly said. "Some nights the ball's going in, some nights it's not. You put a lot of pressure on your defense when you're not making shots.
"We make one shot, here or there, and we have a chance to flip the ball game."
Alaysia Vann led MacArthur with 14 points and 10 rebounds, modest numbers considering how easily the 6-foot-2 post was scoring and dictating play for the Highlanders early.
MacArthur led 22-15 at halftime, with Vann scoring 11 in the first half. She repeatedly was able to pass over the Ardmore defense in the paint and was keeping the Tigers from easy looks inside (three blocks in first half).
But the Tigers adjusted at the break, with a collective of players collapsing on Vann at every opportunity.
"We just had to be more aware of what's going on," Kelly said. My girls really paid attention — seeing ball, seeing man, knowing where she's at. Kyla (Stapleton) at 5-foot-4 is guarding 6-foot-1, and she does a tremendous job, and Rickkia (Manuel) comes over there and doubles and helps out.
"Kerra Day did a good job on her; Zoe (Booker) came in, gave us some minutes down there, so I was really proud of our posts. They did a great job tonight."
Even with Vann patrolling the paint, Ardmore outrebounded MacArthur 36-29. Stapelton pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds to go with 10 points to pace the Tigers, including all of Ardmore's points (8) in the first quarter.
With leading scorers Patrice Bennett and Tee Taylor struggling from the field early, Ardmore's defense didn't falter, holding MacArthur to just 10 second-half points.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers held the Highlanders without a field goal until the 4:26 mark. Bennett (five points) and Taylor (six) didn't have their usual high-scoring games, but turned momentum in the fourth, cutting MacArthur's lead to 29-28 as part of a 6-0 run.
Ardmore forced 21 MacArthur turnovers, with three coming on consecutive possessions in the fourth. The final turnover resulted in Taylor's baseline jumper which closed the gap to 29-28.
But MacArthur's Kiaji Sawyer hit 2 of 2 from the line and Vann sank 1 of 2 in the final seconds. Ardmore's shots still weren't falling late, with the Tigers only converting one 3-pointer all night.
It was still an improvement from the previous Lawton MacArthur-Ardmore contest, in which the Tigers lost 35-31.
"Their tall post, we shut her down a little more than last time," said Bennett, who celebrated Senior Night Friday along with Cheyenne Eades and Destinee Howell.
"We just need to practice shooting more. Practice makes perfect."