By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Anthony King's deep breath was noticeable as he eyed the first of two free throws with 6.2 seconds to play, his team trailing 48-47.
The shot went up — nothing but net.
He was comparatively calmer on the second, which netted the same result and gave the Roughers a 49-48 win over Sand Springs and some good tidings going into the Christmas break.
"All I was thinking about was making the free throw and winning the game for my team," the quiet 6-foot senior said.
King was 3-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter up to those last two critical shots, but he more than did his part offensively, scoring a game-high 26 points.
He did so minus a huge piece of the puzzle. Center Tramal Ivy was in Texas, preparing for a Blue Gray Football All-American prep contest Sunday at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
"He's our leading rebounder so it definitely hurt us not having him out there," King said.
MHS coach Josh Berry called it a "growing experience” as his team went to 4-1, 2-1 in Frontier Conference play.
"We showed some heart, some will and some resolve not to quit," he said. "Certainly Anthony had a good night on offense but everyone did their due diligence when we needed it.”
But King has shouldered the biggest load of offense of late. He was the lone Rougher in double figures in Tuesday’s first loss of the season at the hands of Broken Arrow. In the first half on Friday, he had all of his team’s field goals — three 3-pointers — as they trailed 18-12 on 3-of-15 shooting. Lavare Reed, who absorbed Ivy’s minutes, had six points and 10 rebounds.
Aside from King, the rest of the offense was 5-of-22 on the night.
The Sandites, who lost both games last year to much of this same MHS squad by a combined 44 points, led by as many as 11 on Kyle Keene’s shot with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
The Roughers had a rapid-fire surge, a 9-0 run over the next 1:31, to get within four points at 30-26. The Sandites broke the Roughers press and Keene capped it with a basket to go up six, but the game then began gravitating in the opposite direction.
Muskogee got within one possession several times, the first on a bucket-and-one by King with 6:17 to go. Not only did the Roughers whittle the lead but they also chipped away at the Sand Springs lineup. Keene would leave the game with his fifth foul with 3:36 to play, as did the Sandites’ other starting forward, Josh Lattle, with 2:14 to go.
With just over two minutes to play, the Roughers got the ball after a traveling call in the backcourt and moments later, King took a cross-court pass in the frontcourt from David Beasley and nailed a 3 from the right wing to put the Roughers up 44-43 with 1:51 to go.
The Sandites’ bench had its say. A 3 from the corner by Sand Springs’ Owen Brown and a free throw by Dominick Jaiman made it 47-44. Then Beasley’s bucket off a drive with 16 seconds left made it a one-point game.
Cantrell Ashley sent Tyler Tolbert to the line at the other end with 13.2 left. Tolbert missed the first, hit the second, then Beasley drew a foul on a drive to the hoop. He hit the first, missed the second, but King was there for the rebound and was fouled, sending him to the line for what proved to be the decisive charity shots.
Sand Springs’ final chance came from senior guard Ashton Palmer, who led his team with 14 points, but his shot bounced off the hole at the buzzer.
Sand Springs fell to 2-4 and 1-2.
Muskogee is off until the Bedouin Shrine Classic the second week of January.
Muskogee 52, Sand Springs 39
Sand Springs went a quarter without scoring a field goal, yet Doyle Rowland wasn't satisfied.
Imagine had the defensive effort the Muskogee coach saw not been a bit on the lackluster side heading into the Christmas break.
“Our defense was lackluster, we didn’t get up and challenge people. We kind of laid back and made excuses because we couldn’t get around the screens, so we’ve got to get better,” he said.
“I didn’t like the effort. We didn’t play with a lot of poise.”
Jada Ford scored 19 points, one of three of the No. 8 Lady Roughers (5-1, 2-1) to reach double figures. Aaliyah Wilson was next with 12.
Trena Mims, who finished with 10 points, hit two transition baskets to start the second quarter, and Muskogee, which had scored the final two baskets of the opening quarter, extended what became a 15-3 run to lead at the half 25-12.
Sand Springs was 0-for-11 from the field in the quarter after a 3-of-9 opening quarter. Muskogee went from 5-of-15 in the opening eight minutes to 10-of-25 at the half. Mims' 3-for-4 effort in the second quarter proved to be the hottest hand. Ford missed her only shot, a 3-point attempt, in the second quarter and scored 11 second-half points.
Sand Springs ended its field goal slump when Dru Clark hit a jumper in the middle of the paint with 7:36 to go in the third, the first since the 1-minute mark of the opening quarter. That cut the margin to 11, but it would never get into single digits.
Sydney Pennington led the Lady Sandites (2-4, 0-3) with 15 points and nine rebounds.