It wasn’t easy, but Claremore boys basketball kept its early undefeated streak alive Tuesday night.
The Class 5A No. 11 Zebras rallied in the fourth quarter to top Nathan Hale 58-53 on the road thanks to some stellar free-throw shooting down the stretch. Claremore (2-0) hit 7 of 9 shots from the line in the final period, outscoring the Rangers 15-6 in the process.
Michael McHugh scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth, hitting three free throws. Those points proved to be crucial, for star shooting guard Caison Hartloff, who finished with 14 points, was held scoreless during that stretch.
Elsewhere, Drake Roark (11 points) and Ethan Furstead (five points) shot a combined 4-of-4 from the free-throw line in the fourth. Claremore made 12 of 17 free throws in all.
The Zebras held a 19-16 advantage after the first, but Nathan Hale won the second period 23-14 thanks to the efforts of Demetrius Neal and Zayvion Love, who combined for 16 points in that quarter to make it a 38-33 spread at halftime. The Rangers stayed in front in the third, leading 47-43 heading into the final eight minutes.
Neal and Love were held to eight points combined in the second half, though, finishing with 20 and 13 points, respectively.
Claremore plays Vinita at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the Vinita Big Dawg Shoot-Out. The winner of that game will face either Will Rogers or Lincoln Christian at 11:30 a.m. Friday.