Hale's Notre Dame Bulldogs prevailed with a 55-41 win over McFerren's New Madrid County Central Eagles.
"We go back a long way and we've battled a long time," said McFerren, of his college teammate.
NMCC, plagued by an overwhelming 37 turnovers, compared to 16 for Notre Dame, somehow managed to stay in the game and give themselves a chance.
"We didn't get beat by a team that shouldn't beat us and that's what I like about it," said McFerren, in his first season since returning to coaching after a four-year absence. "We were competitive and that's what I'm striving for. Each night we take the floor to be just like tonight. And, if we keep doing that, you never know, you never know."
NMCC fell to 1-5, 0-1 in the conference, while Notre Dame improved to 5-0, 2-0.
The Eagles led 17-10 after the first quarter and trailed by only 10, 34-24, at the half, despite 19 first-half turnovers.
The coaches' theories on the closeness of the score differed.
Said Hale, "We struggled shooting the basketball. If we make some shots, that's a 30-point game in a hurry because they turned the ball over a lot. Some nights they go in and, when they do, we're going to be really good." McFerren, however, felt his team had much to do with the Bulldogs' poor shooting night.
"The reason we were competitive is because we played good defense--hard, strong defense. I saw some things that we needed to see. I saw some things that we can build on. We came into the Notre Dame gymnasium against a team that hasn't been beaten, and we really competed tonight. The score doesn't indicate what type of game it really was."
Notre Dame's fullcourt pressure, obviously, bothered the Eagles. Points off two early second-quarter turnovers, created by the press, forged a tie at 17 in the middle of a 9-0 run which lifted the Bulldogs to a 21-17 lead.
The Bulldogs' 24-7 second-quarter advantage boosted them to the 10-point halftime lead.
"We had a stretch there (when) we made some outside shots and got it up there about 15-16 points," said Hale. "That's what we have to do. We have to find ways to put the ball in the basket."
Both team's defenses dominated after halftime. The Eagles held the Bulldogs to only seven points, but managed only six themselves in the third period. The third quarter expired with the score at 41-30.
Trailing 52-34 about midway of the fourth quarter, the Eagles mounted a 6-0 run to cut the margin to 52-41 with about 2:30 remaining, but Notre Dame scored the last three points to close out the game.
Said McFerren, "If we can eliminate the little things like turnovers, a majority of them unforced, I think they will be surprised how competitive they can be
McFerren also saw a shift in his team's attitude.
"They gave me some hope tonight," he said, "because before it (intensity) has been just here and there. I thought they were just going through the motions, but now I see that they hate to lose. Early on, it probably didn't bother them that much; now they're working their butts off."
Shaun Newsome led the NMCC offense with 14 points, including three from beyond the arc, while undersized 5-foot-11 post Antonio McIntosh chipped in with 10 and grabbed a team-leading five rebounds, holding his own against Notre Dame's bigger inside players.
NMCC edged Notre Dame in the battle of the boards, 21-20.
Notre Dame placed three scorers in double figures, led by 6-3 Alex Ressel with 15. Kirk Boeller had 12 with two treys and 6-6 sophomore Ryan Willen added 10.
The Eagles were perfect from the free-throw line, going 5-of-5, but the Bulldogs visited the charity stripe much more often, sinking 13 of 17.
Notre Dame completed the sweep with a junior varsity win, 63-35. Marquese Gates led the Eagles with 17 points.
NMCC has a two-week break before competing in the Dyersburg (Tenn.) Tournament on Dec. 28-30.