Aggies get a win in season opener

OPSU Athletics
Dave Beyer, Sports Information Director

PLAINVIEW, Texas – The Mark Laird era as the head coach of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University men’s basketball team got off on the right foot, with an 82-80 come-from-behind victory over a veteran McMurry University team in the Wayland Baptist Classic. The Aggies (1-0) came back after trailing the experienced War Hawks (0-2) by as many as 12 points in the first half.

It was Panhandle State’s first win in a season-opening game since 2015.

In the first half, both teams seemed to have some Halloween cob webs. Over six minutes into the game, OPSU led 8-0 before McM seemed to shake itself and go on a 12-2 run over the next three minutes to gain the lead for the first time.  The two evenly matched squads would have seven ties and 14 lead changes over the course of the contest.

“We definitely had to work out some first-game jitters,” said Laird after earning his first win at the OPSU helm. “But we did a good job of staying connected. We wanted to focus on defensive pressure, rebounding, getting to the free throw line and sharing the ball. We actually did those fairly well.”

The War Hawks enjoyed their biggest advantage at 25-13 with 6:12 left on the first-half clock. But Panhandle would not go away, generating a run of its own to overtake the War Hawks at 33-32 on a three-point basket from Brett Williams at the 2:01 juncture, before going into the locker room down by six (42-36).

McMurry was able to maintain its lead for the first 12-plus minutes of the second half. Down 59-50 at the 12:07 mark, the Aggies would tie the game at 63-63 and, a few seconds later, take 66-63 on two layups and a free throw by freshman Jalen Williams at 6:55.

Both clubs showed their moxie in the waning minutes. In those final nearly seven minutes of action, there were eight lead changes alone. None was bigger than DK Sumo IV’s two free throws with 19 tics left on the game clock that gave the Aggies the lead for good.

Sumo, one of just three returning players with playing time from last season’s roster, would score Panhandle’s final five points of the contest. He finished the night with nine points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Four OPSU players would finish the game in double-digit scoring and eight of nine players to see action scored for the Aggies. Junior forward Maurice Waters led all scorers with 18 points, hitting 6-of-12 from the floor, while also topping all rebounders with seven boards. He also helped his team on defense, booking three assists and blocking two War Hawk shot attempts.

Daniel Holyfied, another junior transfer, added 14 points to the Panhandle coffers. Holyfield was 4-of-8 from the floor and 6-for-8 from the charity stripe, also making a pair of steals and pulling down five rebounds.

Jalen Williams and Brett Williams each scored 13 points. Jalen had three rebounds, three assists and shared game-high honors for steals with teammate Auston Chatman.

Garret Hoffman tallied seven points and Tristen Womble six, along with two from Quentin Fankhouser, to round out the Panhandle scoring. Womble also had two blocks to his credit.

The Aggies also canned 7-of-15 attempts (46.7%) from beyond the arc. OPSU struggled at the free throw line, especially in the first half when it hit just 10-of-28 for 36 percent.

Panhandle will play Arlington Baptist University on Friday evening (Nov. 1, 6 p.m.) in its second game at the WBU Classic.