McALESTER – Keep dancing, Achille: The glass slipper still fits.
The Eagles took a step closer to the prize on Thursday with a breath-taking comeback against Stuart in a 57-52 overtime win in the Class A basketball Area Round playoffs.
The win sets up an all-Bryan County semifinal against Boswell at 3 p.m. today in the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester. The winner will be one game away from the state tournament, while the loser goes home.
“I believe Boswell, Wright City and Weleetka are among the best in our entire class,” said Achille Coach Nick Beene. “But now we’re the children of destiny and we’re going to go out and compete tomorrow. Our kids believe in what’s going on here. We’re 16-14 and two games from state. It’s unreal.”
Actually, it’s quite real. Austin Beene’s 33 points are real as well, as he overcame early shooting struggles to take over in the final minutes and in overtime.
“I wanted to win this game. I was playing horrible early on and I just decided I wanted to win,” he said. “Bradley (McKnight’s) free throws were huge for us. Lane Manry and Derick Baker got us some huge rebounds, and T.J. Childree and David Beydler helped us. My teammates stepped up big, or we’d be done right now.”
McKnight scored 15, while Manry and Baker had four each.
The Eagles fell behind 13-6 after one quarter and trailed by a dozen in the fourth quarter before an improbable comeback punctuated one of the best story lines in all of Oklahoma high school playoff basketball.
Beene started the rally with a dump-off pass to Baker for two and a pair of pull-up threes, but the Eagles still trailed by seven with just over two minutes remaining.
A combination of Achille will power and a total collapse from the Stuart Hornets (21-8 and playing just 15 minutes from home) helped the drama unfold Thursday.
The Hornets’ Dillon Lawrence was called for a foul and received a technical, and Achille hit three of the four free throw attempts and kept possession. Beene got down low and backed in for two, then the Eagles held a defensive stand on the other end.
At 1:20, Beene was fouled and hit both free shots to tie the game at 46. The Hornets took the air out of the ball for all 80 seconds, settling for a difficult fall-away baseline jumper which didn’t go, forcing overtime.
The Eagles scored five straight in OT - including a critical shot from Derick Baker - to cap a 17-0 run and grab their first lead of the game. They outscored Stuart 11-6 in the extra time to take a five-point win.