The Allen Mustangs had built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter and appeared primed and ready to snap the impressive 32-game conference winning streak Vanoss carried into Friday’s matchup.
But the Wolves got hot from beyond the 3-point arc, shot their way back into the game and rallied pat the Mustangs for a 62-54 victory before a boisterous crowd inside East Central University’s Kerr Activities Center.
The Wolves improved to 14-10 on the season and won their fourth consecutive Pontotoc Conference regular-season championship, while Allen fell to 14-7.
Vanoss hit 8-of-17 (47.1 percent) 3-point shots over the final two quarters and outscored Allen 42-23 in the second half. The Wolves finished the game 13-of-29 (44.8 percent) from long range.
“Really, we just started making shots,” Vanoss head coach Jonathon Hurt said of his team’s turnaround. “Unfortunately, when we start making shots it seems like we start playing harder on defense. Hopefully, we can correct that by next week. If we’re not hitting shots, we still need to guard better. We didn’t guard the way we needed to in the first half.”
Allen led 16-11 late in the first period and was still on top 23-18 after Sando Hill hit a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter. The Mustangs outscored Vanoss 8-2 over the final 3:08 of that frame to build a 31-20 halftime lead.
During that AHS surge, Tayden Walker and Kaden Mills hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Walker scored on a putback at the buzzer.
Chad Milne sank a jumper to open the third period to put Allen ahead 33-20.
Hill caught fire after that, hitting three consecutive triples in a 12-4 Vanoss surge that got the Wolves within 37-32.
Vanoss trimmed its deficit to 41-40 on a 3-pointer by Nathan Stone late at the 1:11 mark of the third, but Walker quickly answered with a 3-point shot of his own.
Two Riley Cooper free throws at the end of the period made it 44-42 heading into the fourth frame.
Kyler Byrd opened the fourth quarter to give Vanoss its first second-half lead at 45-44, but AHS post player Hunter Simpson — who was a thorn in the Wolves’ side all night — hit two free shots at the 5:47 mark that gave Allen a 46-45 advantage.
Vanoss kept firing from downtown, and Hill hit a 3-pointer and Stone followed with back-to-back triples during a 9-0 run that put Vanoss ahead for good at 54-46 and left the Mustangs reeling.
Allen never got closer than five the rest of the way.
Stone hit all three of his 3-point attempts, but none were bigger than his pair in crunch time.
“Nathan Stone has no conscience. He’ll take any shot at any time, which is good and bad,” Hurt said. “I’ll give him credit, though, because a lot of kids don’t have the intestinal fortitude to take those big shots.”
Hill led the way for Vanoss with 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots. Donovan Brown finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for the Wolves, while Byrd also hit a trio of 3-pointers for nine points. Cooper didn’t hit a field goal, but finished 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Simpson led the Allen offense with a game-high 20 points to go with nine rebounds. Milne added 18 points and nine boards of his own, while Walker chipped in 11 points.
The two teams will do battle at 8 p.m. Friday in a Class 2A District Tournament first-round contest at Wewoka High School. The loser of that game is done for the season.
Hurt said he didn’t think this victory over the Mustangs will give his team an edge in this week’s pressure-packed playoff meeting.
“I don’t really think it gives us any (momentum). If anything, it gave Allen even more of a reason to want to beat us out. I really feel like we’re two evenly matched teams and it’s going to be a dogfight next Friday night,” Hurt said.