Matt Alberty stepped to the free-throw line and put Tahlequah’s near-collapse to rest on Thursday. The senior guard sank one of two free throws to give Tahlequah the lead in what ended up being a 59-57 victory for the Tigers over Enid in the opening round of the 2013 Tahlequah Tiger Invitational at the TMAC.
How Alberty reached the foul line, though, was much more remarkable.
With Enid attempting to hold the ball for 61 seconds to get off the final shot of the game, the Plainsmen’s Marcus Moore was called for carrying the ball with the score tied at 57. Enid coach Ryan Wilkinson disagreed and argued until he was slapped with a technical foul, which sent Alberty to the free-throw line for two shots and possession.
Alberty broke the tie and Alex Paris added another free throw to send Tahlequah into the semifinals tonight at 8:30 against Sand Springs. Enid falls to the consolation bracket where it’ll take on Moore at 2:30.
“I thought we played well, executed well and defended well,” Tahlequah coach Pat Dotson said. “We had to execute some things down the stretch and I thought we did a good job of doing that.”
Wilkinson declined to speak to the Tahlequah Daily Press following the conclusion of the contest. The Enid coach was asked if he had a second to talk about the game and he said, “no, I don’t have a second.”
Wilkinson’s technical came 47 seconds after Tahlequah’s Dalton Cunningham picked up a technical foul of his own, which allowed Enid to tie the game at 57 on three Braden Rogers free throws.
Then Enid tried to milk the clock before turning the ball over for only the fourth time in the second half.
Alberty led all scorers in the game with 21 points. Sixteen of his game-high total came in the second half, when he went five-of-eight from the field.
“We worked him all summer, and it was just a matter of him getting his mind straight,” Dotson said of Alberty, who finished seven-of-15 from the floor in the game. “He’s a clutch guy.”
Leading the way for Enid (0-3) was Raeshaan Finley, who went seven-of-17 from the field for 15 points. Rogers chipped in with 12 points, and Michael Majors posted all 10 of hits points in the second half.
The Plainsmen finished 21 of 50 from the field in the game. Tahlequah was 22 of 47.
During the early stages of the contest, it appeared that Tahlequah would coast to its first victory of the season. The Tigers led 19-11 at the end of the first quarter and 36-23 at halftime.
“We came out and started like I know we can,” said Dotson, whose team went 14 of 28 from the field in the opening half, thanks to Dalton Cunningham posting 18 of his 20 points in the first 16 minutes of the contest.
Enid followed by storming back in the second half. After Tahlequah claimed its largest lead of the game at 43-25, the Plainsmen went on a 18-4 run to cut the deficit to 47-43 with one quarter to play.
In the fourth quarter, there were six ties and Tahlequah a lead seven different times. Enid never went ahead at any point.