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Mac boys handle Santa Fe South, 74-61

William Bryant's eyes never wavered.

With a desperate defender tightly guarding him, Bryant hit his fourth and final 3-pointer of the night with 2:30 remaining, putting an exclamation mark on his career night. The shot essentially sealed the victory for MacArthur, serving as the dagger in a 74-61 win over pesky Sante Fe South in the first round of the Class 5A West Regional at Eisenhower on Saturday night. The win also marked the 17th-straight season the Highlanders succeeded in the first game of regional action.

The 3 was only a small fraction of what the junior contributed, for he finished with a personal best 32 points to go along with nine rebounds and two steals.

Bryant said the explanation for his impressive performance was simple  he didn't want his team's season to end.

"Last year, even though I didn't play a lot, I had that feeling and we went home early," "I told the guys we just have to go out and play, and I'm not going home no matter what. That excitement and energy I had just kept on going. I told them at halftime, 'The score is 0-0 because we're only up five, so we need to make it happen.

"I knew whatever happened, we still gotta keep going because anything can happen with any minutes left on the clock. Even though I did hit that shot like I needed, I knew we had to keep going because we have a big game against Eisenhower on Monday, and they aren't going to stop playing, so we can't stop playing."

Despite Bryant's night, Mac (13-9) struggled to put the Saints away until the final quarter.

The teams entered the fourth deadlocked at 46, and the momentum seemed to belong to Sante Fe South (14-12). The Saints took the first three points of the frame to take the lead, but Mac wasn't ready to give up just yet. 

With Sante Fe South leading 51-50 with 6:10 left, Mac coach Marco Gagliardi called a timeout that changed the game's trajectory.

It was during the stoppage of play Gagliardi made a game and season-saving decision to change the defensive scheme. The Saints ability to get past the Highlanders' defenses for easy baskets in the paint and draw fouls was the main reason for the change.

Gagliardi said the defensive switch and increased itensity on offense helped the Highlanders pull away for the win.

"We went to our press there at the end, and we got a few easy baskets," Gagliardi said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of knocking down free throws there at the end, but the press is what got us the lead there, and we just kind of hung on. We were having trouble breaking their pressure, but we broke it a few times and got some easy layups. "Everybody kind of kicked it out. They pressured, and whenever we were able to beat that pressure, they're either going to give up a layup or a 3. They chose to pack in, so we kicked it out and trusted the pass. (Bryant) was just on fire tonight  we hit everything he looked at. We ran our offense as a 3-2 zone beater with (Bryant) running the baseline, and it got him look after look after look."

With a newfound resolve, Mac went on to outscore Sante Fe South 24-10 the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Mac star Sep Reese had a surprisingly quiet night.

The Lawton Constitution

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