By SHAWN YORKS
• Leader & Times
BEAVER, Okla. — For Texhoma High School Red Devils basketball fans, this is getting kind of ridiculous. Once again Friday night, the Red Devils were on the brink of victory, but once again fate smiled on the opposition, as Texhoma fell to Beaver 54-52 in the Duster Dome.
Among Texhoma’s nine losses. six have been by four points or less. Two others have been by less than six points.
“We’ve got to quit making silly mistakes, we’ve got to learn to win these close games,” Texhoma head coach Greg Higgins said. “We’re in the games, we’ve just got to quit making these silly mistakes.”
Mistakes like missing free throws. Texhoma (9-9) was 2-for-12 from the charity stripe.
“You can’t win close games shooting that type of free throws,” Higgins said.
Beaver (14-7) has been in the same boat. They had to rally late to beat Rolla by two a week ago, fell by seven at Hooker on Tuesday, then had to hold off another rally to eke past Texhoma.
“The Murphy kid (Jacob) really got going in the second half,” Beaver coach Brian Stalder said. “Good people find a way to score, and they have some guards that hit some big shots and then Murphy got hot. We were very fortunate to win the game.”
Beaver got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 10-4 lead behind a pair of inside shots by David Rivera and two outside jumpers by Samuel Becker. Kalen Gable added a hard-fought layup during the opening salvo.
Then the Red Devils surged back into it, ending the first quarter on a 5-0 run. Bryson Beattie nailed a trey and Murphy put one in from the paint and the Red Devils trailed just 10-9 at the end of the first.
The run continued into the second when Skylor Rodriguez hit a monster three to put Texhoma up 12-10. The teams exchanged punches, with Beaver lurching ahead 19-12 with a quick run led by Becker, Cole Trippet and Rivera.
Murphy cut it to 19-14 and Beattie again swished it from downtown to make it 19-17.
Beaver led 24-20 at halftime thanks to a pair of shots by Trippet and Allan Butterfield. Texhoma missed five free throws in the second quarter.
Beaver opened the second half with a 5-0 run led by Becker and Trippet, but Texhoma clawed back and tied it at 33 on a field goal and two free throws by Tyler Ansley — the only two freebies Texhoma made all night.
Trippet gave Beaver the lead, Jack Powers answered for Texhoma, but Rivera and Becker put Beaver up 39-35 at the end of the third period.
After a Trippet free throw gave Beaver a 40-35 lead, Murphy cut it to three, and Beattie tied it with yet another 3-pointer. After Beaver couldn’t convert, Murphy struck again from inside and Texhoma held a 42-40 lead. Ansley and Murphy kept Texhoma ahead by four points until the 3:21 mark of the fourth when Becker hit a jumper and free throw to make it 46-45 Texhoma.
Murphy made it 48-45, but Trippet answered with a put-back jumper off a Becker miss to make it a 1-point game again.
“That’s been our life this year,” Higgins said. “We dig ourselves in a hole every game.”
The teams matched each other blow for blow in the next minute-and-a-half before Tanner McFarland — the hero of last week’s win over Rolla when he stole the ball and drove in for the winning basket — stole the ball at mid-court. After a scramble, Becker came up with it and laid it in to give Beaver a 51-50 lead with 55 seconds left.
McFarland stole the ball again under the Texhoma basket with 40 seconds left. Texhoma fouled Trippet, who made both free throws for a 3-point lead.
Murphy drove the baseline and put it in for Texhoma with 11 seconds left to make it 53-52. The Red Devils fouled Becker, who made one of two free throws. Texhoma’s Rodriguez was fouled but missed both free throws with 4 seconds to go.
Losing early leads has been a problem for the Dusters the last three games, and it’s something Stalder is concerned about.
“That’s something we have to correct,” Stalder said. “We get a lead and we’ve got to figure out how to keep that lead.”
Beaver doesn’t play again until next Friday when the Dusters will host Laverne. Beaver travels to Southwestern Heights Feb. 8 before hosting the district tournament Feb. 11-12. The Dusters will play Laverne on Feb. 11 and the winner plays Hooker for the district championship Feb. 12.
Murphy led Texhoma with 16 points.
Becker led Beaver with 18, Trippet 16, Rivera and Gabel eight each.