Tahlequah wanted to see how it measured up against other 5A competition. Well, there was no better time to do that than Saturday night at the TMAC.
Against 5A No. 6 Lawton MacArthur, Tahlequah fell behind early and never could catch up in a 60-49 loss to the Highlanders in the third-place game of the 2013 Tahlequah Tiger Invitational.
"That's what we talked about," Tahlequah coach Pat Dotson said. "This is a big tournament. You look across the state of Oklahoma and this is a pretty loaded tournament over here in the boys bracket. And even the 5A clubs in here are pretty quality programs, so understanding where we are against a team like that [is important]."
Playing as the tournament's No. 2 seed, MacArthur had to settle for third place after being knocked off by Van Buren (Ark.) on Friday night. But the Highlanders ended up leaving the Tahlequah Multipurpose Activity Center 2-1 on the weekend.
Barry Williams led the Highlanders (2-2) with 16 points, and Trace Cook chipped in with 14 points.
MacArthur, who trailed 11-9 at the end of the first period, was able to pull ahead for good in the second quarter. With Tahlequah leading 16-15, the Highlanders rattled off 13 unanswered points to take a 28-16 advantage. And for good measure, Cook buried a 3-pointer right before the final buzzer of the first half to give MacArthur a 31-18 edge.
"Against athletic teams like that," Dotson said, "you have to finish."
The Tigers (1-3) put up plenty of shot attempts (51) but managed to only make 19 of them. MacArthur wasn't much better, converting on only 20 of 47 field-goal tries.
Dalton Cunningham led Tahlequah with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Matt Alberty added 12 points in the losing cause.
Tahlequah wrapped up the tournament 1-2 after beating Enid on the first day. And despite the loss on the final day, it was a vast improvement over Tahlequah's 40-point loss to Sand Springs on Friday night.
"We learned a lesson from (Friday) night," Dotson said. "I thought we handled pressure well, and we had some real good looks but we just couldn't convert. I was really pleased with our defensive effort. We just have to do better in transition and read situations better, but we played much better."
Lawton MacArthur 60, Tahlequah 49
Mac 9 22 13 16 - 60
Tah 11 7 15 16 - 49
MacArthur (2-2): Barry Williams 16, Trace Cook 14, Meisel 9, Brown 9, Allen 5, Burns 3, Isaih 2, Washington 2.
Tahlequah (1-3): Dalton Cunningham 15, Matt Alberty 12, Smith 9, Vader 6, Carlile 5, Faddis 2.