As the buzzer sounded, the Claremore Zebras found themselves in an unfamiliar place.
For the first time in two years, the Zebras were on the winning side of the scoreboard and pumping each other’s chests after their 43-29 season-opening victory over the Collinsville Cardinals.
A 23-game losing streak came to an end Tuesday night as the Zebras played with ‘one heartbeat’ and exemplified the true meaning of teamwork.
From start to finish, the Zebras relied on one another and the offensive scoring of Reid Joyner, Rande Williams and T.J. Wood to take down their Metro Lakes Conference rival.
The Claremore trio combined for 31 of the 43 points as the Zebras never trailed in the contest.
Joyner and Williams tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively in the paint; while Wood — in his first varsity basketball game — contributed with 10 points on the perimeter.
Claremore led 29-27 at the end of the third quarter, and then used a 10-0 run to secure their win in the final eight minutes of the game.
With both teams playing nip-and-tuck until the fourth quarter, Claremore’s ability to penetrate the lane with finesse passing allowed its offense to create mismatches in the paint.
Williams’ short-range jumper from Wood put Claremore ahead 33-27 with 6:13 left in the game. Moments later, Truman Burrage went coast-to-coast on a transition layup to extend the Claremore lead to 36-27.
Another transition layup by Claremore freshman guard Jeff Oxford gave the Zebras an 11-point lead at 38-27 with under four minutes remaining.
Claremore’s defense — sparked by the pesky pressure of Wood, Hunter Garroutte and Burrage in the back-court — held Collinsville to one field goal in the fourth quarter.
Collinsville forward Tanyon Cole, who finished with a game-high 18 points, converted an offensive putback with 1:46 left in the game to cut Claremore’s lead to 40-29.
The closest Collinsville got to Claremore came on Cole’s buzzer-beating 12-foot jumper that narrowed the halftime deficit to 22-21 in favor of the Zebras.
Wood knocked down momentum-turning three pointers in the second and third quarter for 6 of his 10 points that sparked Claremore’s offense. His trey with 4:20 left in the third quarter gave Claremore a 29-23 lead.
Claremore (1-0) returns to action today at the Hilldale Tournament.