Northwest Classen Knights
Oklahoma City, OK 73122
Record: 2-8 | Unranked
|@ US Grant||L||8-6|
|vs Putnam Heights Academy||W||21-0|
|vs Capitol Hill||W||38-20|
|vs Bishop McGuinness||L||0-56|
|@ Carl Albert||L||62-0|
| Ben Johnson
No introduction needed. Here are the "expert" picks for state tournaments taking place this weekend. (Oh, and listen to the podcast while you're at it!)
Ben Johnson - Edmond Memorial: There are so many players to love in this field -- Putnam City West’s Rondel Walker, Sapulpa’s Camryn Dennis, Putnam City North’s Micah Thomas, Booker T. Washington’s Bryce Thompson and so many more. But Shane Cowherd is bringing a team with talent across the board. There’s a reason the coaches in the state have the Bulldogs as the top-ranked team, so I’ll side with Cowherd and Co. over Booker T. Washington in the finals.
Michael Swisher - Edmond Memorial: The Bulldogs snuck in after losing to Midwest City and squeaking by rival Santa Fe. They’ll play better this week and bring the trophy down south.
Whitt Carter - Booker T Washington: This will be a fantastic tournament filled with teams that can win it. But I’ll take the Hornets, as they have the experience in big games and are hungry for a title. They had to watch Memorial win two in a row in Class 5A and this year their get one of their own. Another side note, BTW’s Seth Hurd is my favorite and the most underappreciated player in the state.
Ben - PC West: Reckless abandon is what the Patrios will play with this weekend, just like they’ve done all year. Not a ton of big-time scorers for PC West, but last year’s runner-up will hoist the gold ball this year.
Michael - Putnam City West: No. 1 in Oklahoma. Nationally-ranked. Haven’t lost to a team from Oklahoma. Won’t this weekend, either.
Whitt - Putnam City West: They were right there last year and had their title taken in the waning seconds by Owasso. All they’ve done this year is go 23-1 with a loss to Skyline, TX and dominate the teams inside the state of Oklahoma. Their relentless style of play and approach will be the difference, as they finish on Saturday this time and cut down the nets.
Ben - Memorial: Boone twins. It’s that simple. The Chargers have been a dynamo in 5A with two straight titles and now going for a third. Northwest Classen is good, but can Davion Warden and Co. make it to the title game and then take down the Chargers? I don’t see it.
Michael - Memorial: Lenny Hatchett has Del City playing so well, but I can’t pick against Memorial. Neither should you.
Whitt - Memorial: Let’s all be honest, this is the easiest pick from any of the classes. Bobby Allison and gang are just on another level. The Boone twins will, once again, wow the crowds at the Mabee Center with their athleticism and impact on both ends of the floor. The Chargers get another one, sending Kalib and Keylan out with a bang.
Ben - Piedmont: Per usual, the 5A girls field is pretty much anyone’s for the taking. Rogers is dangerous, but then so is El Reno with Ashlyn Evans-Thompson leading the charge. Coweta is young but talented, and East Central is always a threat. But for this year, I’ll go with the Wildcats, led by Delanie Crawford (14.8 points a game) and Maci Attalla (13.6).
Michael - Piedmont: El Reno beating Ardmore at area put the bracket in a funk as it appears loaded at the bottom. Coach Carr’s team will emerge from that and then claim gold on Saturday.
Whitt - Ardmore: They suffered a surprising and tough loss to El Reno at the area tournament last week, but I think that may work to the Lady Tigers advantage by waking them up. This team rolled through the first part of the season, losing their first game in late January. Ardmore cuts down the nets and gets its’ third gold ball.
Ben - Kingfisher: Some unbelievable talent in this field -- Broken Bow’s Josh Jones (20.4 points per game), Central’s B.J. Jefferson (16), Elgin’s Conner Slater (16.3), Kingfisher’s Trey Green (17) and Heritage Hall’s Trey Alexander (24.8). And what’s scary is a lot of these teams will return a lot of talent next season. But for now, I’m zeroing in on a Kingfisher-Heritage Hall title game for a second straight year. This time the gold ball goes to Jett Sternberger, Matt Stone, Bijan Cortes and Co.
Michael - Kingfisher: I live in Kingfisher. I have to pay my bills. I have to pick the Yellowjacket. Oh, and they’re really, really good. And hungry. If they get by dangerous Elgin in the quarters, look out.
Whitt - Kingfisher: The class that everyone is excited for will take center stage at the Fairgrounds for all three days. Heritage Hall beat the Yellowjackets in the title game last year and are 26-0 this year. But the star-studded Kingfisher remembers that loss last March and will want revenge. They get it and send out their seniors with a second gold ball.
Ben - Anadarko: Top half of the bracket -- Holland Hall, Muldrow, Elgin and Classen SAS -- is STACKED. Again, STACKED. That’s part of the reason I went with Anadarko. The Warriors still have their work cut out for them, but I’m rolling the dice with Kaylee Borden (12 points a game), Averi Zinn and the rest of the Anadarko team to win its third gold ball.
Michael - Muldrow: Coaches tell me Classen SAS is as talented as they’ve seen in 4A in a while. And they’re young as they start three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. That said, I’m going with Muldrow. Taylen Collins can match up with Littlepage-Buggs and Hannah Boyett can handle the pressure. And that’s just a semifinal. Don’t overlook Anadarko, either (it appears I am).
Whitt - Anadarko: A fairly wide open class, there are a handful of teams I could see winning it. I’ll go with the tradition-rich Anadarko, who beat one of the favorites, Classen, last Friday in the area finals. When the Lady Warriors get the press up and running, you better handle the pressure or things can unravel quickly.
Ben - Millwood: Kingston’s Jacob Germany is as good as it gets in this field, but I’ll side with the athleticism of the Falcons here. Give me Justin Wilson and Isaiah Williams and the rest of the Falcons.
Michael - Here’s hoping for a Kingston-Millwood final (all apologies to you other six). I’ve got personal ties to Millwood, so the fan in me is pulling for the Falcons all the way. The business side in me says Kingston won’t be denied.
Whitt - Millwood: I’ll take the Falcons to win the gold ball here. Several really good teams that you can pick here, including Kingston or Sequoyah on the other side. Ultimately, I think Millwood gets the winner of that eventual semifinal and beats them. Millwood has not lost inside the class this year and that won’t change this weekend.
Ben - Christian Heritage: Up from 2A, the Crusaders are still loaded. Tahlequah Sequoyah is probably the favorite, but I’ll side with Olivia Curtis and Rylee Langerman.
Michael - Sequoyah-Tahlequah: CHA has won the last two 2A crowns and is a sleeper, but this isn’t 2A and the Lady Crusaders aren’t as deep as they have been. Larry Callison rides into the sunset with another state championship.
Whitt - Christian Heritage: Another class with some big time teams, but I’ll take CHA to win another title as it took the jump up a class this season. They know how to win and ultimately get past Sequoyah in what would be an awesome semifinal. Side note, I am really picking my alma mater, the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs - in Toby Todd we trust.
Ben - Hennessey: Total guess here, so I’m siding with Hennessey, who -- along with Hooker -- has only lost twice this season.
Michael - Hooker: This is the most wide-open bracket in OKC, in my opinion. Any number of teams can win…and also get beat Thursday. Hooker is one of them.
Whitt - Dale: They are coming off a big win over Hooker last week to punch their ticket to the state tourney. They have played well inside the class this year, going 12-2, only losing to Cashion a month ago and Rock Creek back in January.
Ben - Dale: I’m programmed to believe that Dale wins everything when its in any state tournament field. Pirates win again.
Michael - Howe: No Cashion and no CHA this year, which have been Howe’s kryptonite the last three years. Dale is in the way, but Jalei Oglesby caps her stellar career with the gold ball.
Whitt - Latta: I’ll go with what many would consider a sleeper pick here, but give me the Lady Panthers. They are a long team and present a bunch of problems defensively. They will have to get past top-ranked Dale in the semis and it would be the rubbermatch between the two.
| Ben Johnson
Made a big podcast addition this week. Ben & Swisher are joined by the Oklahoman's Jacob Unruh.
Jacob & Swisher recap the highlights and the championship moments from the Class A & Class B state tournaments.
Then the guys break down the state tournaments from 2A through 6A. And of course, PREDICTIONS! (Most sure to go wrong, in Ben's case).
And as always, thanks for listening!
| Ben Johnson
Union Public Schools is beginning the 2020-2021 school year with some significant news. The ninth-largest school district in Oklahoma, per overall enrollment, is slated to have discussions about removing the Redskins nickname it has had for decades.
The school made the announcement Monday -- six days into the new academic year -- that it will begin discussions into a possible new nickname on July 13 at the next district's school board meeting.
The district has addressed the nickname before, deciding to keep the current nickname back in the 2002-2003 school year.
The news comes on the heels of the Washington franchise in the NFL opting to consider a name change, after advertisers started to pull their funding until a new nickname was agreed upon.
In Oklahoma, three other school districts use the same nickname: Kingston, McLoud and Rush Springs.
Stay tuned for more updates.
| Michael Swisher
The Cashion and Perry boys’ basketball teams entered the 2020 playoffs in slightly different positions.
Cashion had just endured “hell week” almost unscathed. The Wildcats were tested mightily during the stretch and entered the playoffs with a sterling record and ranked second in Class 2A.
They were a definite favorite to reach the state tournament.
As for Perry? The Maroons survived their own mid- to late-season swoon to hit the playoffs on a roll.
However, they finished the regular season out of the top-eight in Class 3A, making their road to state - on paper, anyway - more challenging.
The Maroons had no trouble with Chandler in a 30-point district win, then held off a stubborn Prague squad in the regional opener.
The first big roadblock was No. 6 Community Christian in the regional championship on the Royals’ home court. The Royals were one of two top-eight teams that figured to stand between Perry and a spot in the state tournament.
Down big at halftime, Perry came back to win 54-47.
For those who didn’t know, now they did. Perry was a team with which to be reckoned.
Hight: We beat them at their place after being down 11 at halftime. I think that win gave us a lot of confidence.
Cashion wasn’t overly-inspired in its 14-point district win against Rush Springs, a team that pulled off the upset the night before.
That kept the Wildcats in the winner’s bracket for the regional opener.
For most teams sitting at No. 2 in the rankings, winning that Thursday game of a regional is an expectation more than an accomplishment.
That wasn’t necessarily the case in Cashion. Not since the 1996-97 season had the Wildcats advanced past the regional and into the area tournament.
That’s right. Twenty-three years.
A win in the Thursday winner’s bracket game would guarantee a spot in the area tournament and break that long streak. So, for Cashion, there was added pressure against Hobart.
And perhaps that pressure is why Cashion struggled early as Hobart led throughout the first quarter. However, the final three quarters belonged to Cashion in a 58-29 victory.
Hardaway: I think relief is a perfect word. I think for the coaches, more than the players, it was a big relief. I don't think the kids ever really thought about it more as just another team in front of them, but we as coaches knew how important that game was for us and our program to finally end the 20-plus year hex of the boys not making it to area. We had lost the previous three years on Thursday night, each time to really good teams: Carnegie, Regent Prep and Wewoka. We battled them tooth and nail, but just weren't good enough, and then had a really tough opponent waiting for us the next day, so to win that game was really big and really shouldn't be forgotten or taken for granted.
The Wildcats were headed to area. However, the regional championship game against No. 19 Mangum would decide if they were going into the area title game or into the consolation bracket. Mangum proved more than a formidable foe as it never backed down from Cashion and even led in the waning moments of the game. Somehow - like those brutal battles against Hennessey and Dale - Cashion emerged with a 63-61 victory.
Hardaway: They’re such a tough matchup for us, but, somehow, we just found a way to win.
The “upset” victory over Community Christian put Perry into the area championship game - and one win from state - for the second straight year. Adding to the deja vu was the fact the Maroons would be playing Millwood, the very team that blew them out in last year’s area championship.
This year, Millwood entered the game ranked No. 1.
Hight: Losing to Millwood the year before, I think, benefited us more than them. They remember beating us by 20; my guys also remembered that, but I think we felt like we could have played better and this time we didn’t look intimidated or scared of the moment. I felt really confident going into the game, probably more than I ever have in a big game. It wasn’t because I knew we would win, but just the fact I felt like we were playing to our capabilities and had a good week of preparation.
Cashion, meanwhile, was literally in uncharted territory considering the area tournament drought. The Wildcats were set to face No. 6 Minco for the area title at the Pioneer Cellular Event Center at SWOSU. Minco had reached the state semifinals the year before.
Much like the “hell week” and Mangum games, this was a battle. This one, however, didn’t see Cashion make the plays or catch the breaks near the end. Minco emerged 56-51 to win the area championship and advance to state.
Hardaway: We lost to a team almost our equals, one with similar personnel makeup, approach, etc, and they had just played a little better than us and they deserved to win. Our free throw struggles finally may have cost us and I was issued a technical foul with 2:11 left in the quarter and our team down four points while we were playing defense. Rightly or wrongly, a coach can’t get a technical foul at that point of the ballgame and I did. As I walked across the floor towards our locker room, I was afraid that maybe my ‘T’ might have cost us a chance to win the game, but as I made the turn down the hallway, my mind quickly turned to how to handle this locker room and our guys.
Hardaway had never been in this position as a coach: Lose the area championship but still have a shot to win Saturday and advance to state.
Hardaway: I have always thought about how I would and always sought advice from other coaches on how they handled the same situation. Before I entered the locker room, I had a quick meeting with my two assistant coaches to discuss the next 20-30 minutes and make sure the three of us were on the same page before talking to the team. It was going to go like this: Go in the locker room, and deal with Minco game, losing, why, how, etc. Try to get through whatever anger, sadness, frustration there was with that and then try to put it to bed as fast as possible. Once we were done, I told the team, ‘OK, we are done talking about Minco. You can be upset about it the rest of the evening and it should upset you, but by tomorrow morning, when you wake up, that’s out of your system. From that point, it has to be for us to win tomorrow and make the state tournament.
There were two surprises for Cashion: One was the fact the Wildcats were going to be playing Saturday. They expected to win Friday. The other was the opponent in the area consolation championship. Unranked Calera had just pulled off big upsets of Caddo and Mangum.
Hardaway: They were the typical tournament underdog that plays well when it matters most and was going to be bringing all the momentum in the world with them Saturday night.
While playing Calera was a surprise, what Calera did on the court wasn’t going to be one. Hardaway made sure one of his assistants scouted all the area teams and even had a former assistant taking some notes throughout the three previous area boys’ games. After the Minco discussion in the locker room, coaches provided a quick briefing on Calera. Still, Hardaway hadn’t yet seen Saturday’s opponent. After the grueling late-night game and the 90-minute bus ride home, he got to work.
Hardaway: At about 4 a.m., after watching a couple of games, I was confident we were the better team, but weird things can happen on Saturday night of area and that’s always a little scary. But I did come across the idea of running an old zone defense that we had not run at Cashion in years. Once I felt like we could defend them, I was able to go to bed.
There was another reassuring feeling for Hardaway.
Hardaway: I had a sense with our guys, that no matter what, they were not going to lose twice in the area tournament. It didn’t matter who we played.
On Saturday afternoon, the team made some final preparations before leaving once again for Weatherford.
Hardaway: We were also closely following Garber’s Class A state championship game that was being played that afternoon. They are a program that their coaches and players are good friends of ours. We beat them in their tournament earlier in the season, but we were openly rooting for them as they won their state championship game (against Arapaho-Butler) in double-OT. As we watched them, we were probably all subconsciously thinking that could be us next week. If they could do it, so could we!
But first, Calera.
Hardaway: I could tell our guys were calm and confident and I knew on the way to SWOSU we were going to win, but you still have to play the game.
The Wildcats did just that - and it was never really a game. The celebration was on early as Cashion won 61-26.
Hardaway: We played great defense throughout. We weren’t great offensively for two quarters. We couldn’t catch or make a layup for stretches for whatever reason. We won by a big margin, which was both great and odd because you just always think an area finals game would be a tight one. We celebrated on the floor and in the locker room. It was a lot of fun watching our players enjoy that experience.
One of Hardaway’s grandfathers - Fabian Cambron - frequently makes the trek to Oklahoma from Kentucky to catch his favorite coach’s big games. He was one of several family members on hand for Hardaway’s big moment.
Hardaway: I really enjoyed having my family there! Hugs and congrats from my wife and kids, my parents and my grandfather were very special. I loved watching our players celebrate with their teammates, parents, family and friends.
Nobody wanted the celebration to end. SWOSU essentially made it.
Hardaway: We were there so long, they basically shut the lights out on us, but oh well. We were going to state. It was the first time that Cashion boys had gone to state since 1996.
Perry’s area experience was every bit as meaningful, but not nearly as drawn out. Standing immediately in the Maroons’ way was top-ranked Millwood, the team that essentially embarrassed them in exactly the same spot the year before. Perry didn’t recover and lost the Saturday game as well and missed out on a trip to state.
This year, however, the Maroons were more than read. They never trailed and maintained a slim lead the entire first half.
Hight: I felt like the longer the game went along, the more the more our guys realized: “Hey, we can win this.”
The lead grew to double digits in the second half. The Maroons kept their lead despite Drake having to sit for about a five-minute stretch. Ultimately, Millwood had to start fouling. Goldberry went 11 of 13 from the line and finished with 22 points. Drake went for 23 points and 18 boards.
Hight: I don’t think I really felt like “oh man, we have this” until about 15 seconds were left and we went up six points.
Perry emerged victorious, 69-61, and was headed to the state tournament for the first time since 19-FOREVER!
Hight: It was almost hard to believe. When I came to Perry, that was one of my biggest goals. It took 11 years, so I know how hard it is to get to that point...to even give yourself a chance.
A Perry alumnus, Hight was well-versed on the difficulty of even being in a position to go to the state tournament.
Hight: My second year of coaching in 2007-08, I was one win away at Mulhall-Orlando and then I didn’t get that opportunity again until last year. So over the years, I have appreciated how hard it is to even get to area, much less the state tournament.
The coach knew it wasn’t just about him.
Hight: This group of kids and seniors deserved it. We are not the most athletic or physically dominant team. We have to do all the little things right and these guys did that for me and each other.
Perry fans are accustomed to visiting State Fair Arena during the latter part of winter. However, it’s always been to cheer on the wrestling team. Now there was another reason to go.
Hight: Being a Perry graduate, our town, community and alumni really have supported Perry basketball. We had great support at games and people were excited. It made me proud to do something for those people.
And then there’s the support system at home.
Hight: My family. My wife was proud of us and it was just great to see her smile after the game because she knows how bad I wanted to get to the state tournament. And my kids, they have grown up on a school bus, sitting on the bench since they could walk, and spending hours and hours just watching practices. So having my son on the team and being able to see him on the floor and being able to contribute in the biggest moment of my career was awesome.
All of that culminated in the moments after the final buzzer at Western Heights High School.
Hight: The best part of the whole thing was getting announced as area champions, taking what would be our last team picture and the celebration in the locker room. Then, in the lobby of Western Heights gym, there were hundreds of family members and fans there to congratulate the team and take pictures, etc. It was an awesome feeling, I bet I received over 200 texts that night. I didn’t go to bed until 4 a.m. because I didn’t want the night to end.
| Michael Swisher
It’s official now.
The 2020 All-State football game will take place after an agreement was signed Wednesday between the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association and Oklahoma Baptist University.
OBU’s Crain Family Stadium in Shawnee will be the host site when All-State selections from East take on those from the West at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 25.
“This is just a way to provide something for a group of seniors who lost so much this year,” said Norman North head coach Justin Jones, who is also the OFBCA executive director.
“From proms to graduations and even to evaluations in football, they missed out, so we wanted to find a way to have this game.”
Skordle is serving as the title sponsor of the event and will be live streaming the game free of charge.
Skordle, which provides streaming services for schools, on top of providing live scoring updates for high school events across the state, will also be offering other promotional opportunities before, during and after the game.
“Like everyone else, we were devastated when so many events and opportunities for these student-athletes were lost this year,” said Korry Rogers, Skordle founder.
“When we had the opportunity to be a part of helping make this event possible, we didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance to work with a great institution like OBU and organization like the OFBCA.”
The game is annually contested the last week of July at the end of the Oklahoma Coaches Association’s weeklong of other All-State games and clinics.
However, due to COVID-19, the OCA was forced to cancel this year’s events.
“As soon as we found out they were unable to have it, we started looking for a creative and safe way for our seniors to have this opportunity,” Jones said.
“We couldn’t do this without OBU,” Jones said. “When we reached out to them, their football staff and athletic department were quick to try to work with us and do everything to help.”
OBU’s staff, starting with head coach Chris Jensen, is stocked full of former Oklahoma high school coaches.
“A lot of them are even former OFBCA board members,” Jones said. “So they understand the importance of this game.”
Rosters for the game are not finalized, but the base of them will be the OFBCA’s selections that were released in January.
Kingfisher’s Jeff Myers will be the head coach for the West. Assisting on the West will be Hobart’s Travis Sims, Noble’s Greg George and Edmond Santa Fe’s Daniel Maly.
Chris Elerick of Stroud will be the head coach for the East team. His assistants will include Adair’s Mark Lippe, Bethel’s Joey Ginn and Collinsville’s Kevin Jones are the assistants.
Game day specifics and regulations will be announced soon, but Jones assures that player safety will be of the utmost importance in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
Even if that means eventually calling off the game.
“When we first began to discuss this, the foundation principle with everyone in the room was that our No. 1 priority would be to keep athletes safe,” Jones said.
“We are going to follow the state’s direction as we move forward and take every precaution we have to in order to keep them safe while at the same time knowing there’s always the contingency that we may have to cancel it.”
Provided the game is played, officials with OBU, the OFBCA and Skordle said they plan to make it a memorable day.
"Making All-State is something most football players never achieve, so to earn the honor and not get to play the game would be a major disappointment," said Skordle President Adam Diesselhorst.
"Now that the opportunity has presented itself yet again, we are excited and determined to work with OBU and the OFBCA to make this a tremendously memorable event."
| Michael Swisher
The 2019-20 basketball season will certainly go down in the books for making it.
It will forever be remembered as the year that never ended. Better put, it was never finished for most of Oklahoma’s high school basketball classifications.
Save for A and B, there was a beginning and a middle, but no end.
That’s 80 teams that got no resolution.
Oh, they got to feel the glory of reaching the state tournament, but never were afforded that closure.
Whether it was a blowout in the quarterfinals, a buzzer-beater in the semifinals, having to settle for silver or raising that gold ball, they will never know what might have been.
In this multi-part series, Skordle will give you a closer look at the roller coaster that was the 2019-20 basketball season from two men who were part of every step.
We talked with two coaches who experienced the grueling regular season, the highs of qualifying for state and the lows of not getting to actually experience state itself.
This series will delve deep into the emotions of Perry’s Brandon Hight and Cashion’s John Hardaway.
The latter got Cashion to the state tournament for the first time since 1996.
Hight, meanwhile, more than one-upped his friend. He coached Perry to state for the first time...ever.
What was it like to battle through a marathon season? Take some tough losses? Play in that area championship? Win that area championship? LOSE that area championship and play the next night? Prepare for the state tournament? Have OKC become the epicenter of the coronavirus the night before the biggest game in your coaching career? Have that state tournament postponed? Live with the unknown for multiple weeks? And, ultimately be told you’ll never play the state tournament you and your team worked so hard to attain?
Find out what was going through the minds of Hight and Hardaway, how they dealt with it and what it meant to them and their teams.
Part I - The Regular Season
Coming into the season, there was reason for optimism in both Cashion and Perry.
Both programs have been overshadowed by other sports at their own school.
Perry, of course, has the behemoth wrestling juggernaut with which to share the winter spotlight while Cashion’s football team has returned to prominence under Lynn Shackelford.
However, the 2019-20 season gave fans at both schools reason to believe they should be cheering on the boys’ roundball teams.
Perry was coming off a 22-6 campaign in 2019 in which it reached the area finals in Class 3A before losing two straight.
Hight: Last year we had a very successful season and brought back four starters (Mason Drake and Jace Goldsberry were both all-conference and two-year starters, and Braxton Dale and Caleb Fortney) and the first two off the bench (Noah Cash and Dylan Hight) so we had very high expectations.
Cashion, meanwhile, was 16-10 in 2019 and - for the 23rd consecutive year! - failed to get beyond the regional tournament. However, there was reason for optimism in 2020. Coming back from last year’s squad were seniors like Jacob Woody, Alex Nabavi and TJ Roberts. Also back was a deep crop of sophomores who cut their teeth as freshmen last season. Coaches ranked Cashion No. 13 in 2A to start the year.
Hardaway: Expectations were very high. We had so much coming back and our freshmen were now sophomores. We had won some big games the year before and played up as much as we could in the summer and did well.
The Maroons lived up to their hype early. After starting the season ranked No. 11, they won their first nine games and moved all the way up to No. 4. They won their first two games of the Wheat Capital Tournament to earn a shot at 4A defending champ and top-ranked Kingfisher in the finals. Perry pushed Kingfisher for three-plus quarters before ultimately losing 68-49.
Hight: You never like to lose, but I think it did give our guys some confidence that they could compete with good teams. I’m not sure a 19-point loss can always prove that, but I felt like our guys competed, played hard and didn’t look scared of the moment; which, the previous year in the playoffs, I felt like the moment was almost too big for us at times.
Cashion had to wait...and wait...and wait to start its season. That’s because the Wildcat football team advanced the way to the Class A state championship. Despite two starters and two of its top bench players being on the football team, the Wildcats opened their season Dec. 13 in a tournament at Garber.
Cashion advanced to Saturday’s title game against the host Wolverines...the same day as the football team’s state title game at Edmond.
Hardaway: That was an incredibly long day! We had about 13 kids without our football players. We started that day in the morning in my classroom with film and then had a shootaround. Our team and the girls team drove to the football game together at UCO. We watched the football game and were not in a huge to leave because we knew there was going to be some time needed, win or lose.
Ringling defeated Cashion 20-14 in the football title tilt. The basketball teams, both of which were in the championship games at Garber, loaded up for the trip north.
Hardaway: On the way up, I was a little weary how the full day would take its toll on us. But the pressure that night was definitely on Garber because of the football game and not having our full set of guys. We started the game kind of slow, were getting blasted early, but hung around. We had an unbelievable third quarter.
Cashion outscored Garber 26-15 in the third quarter. Vance Raney made four of the team’s seven 3-pointers in the decisive frame. Cashion went on to win the game 61-55 against a Garber team that was ranked No. 3 in Class A at the time. Garber ultimately won the Class A state championship.
Hardaway: Once we got the lead we were able to manage the rest of the game very well. It was an awesome win and I felt like it really jump-started our season for us in the right way. It definitely got everyone else's attention as well.
The Maroons bounced back from their first loss to win two straight games, but the biggest lull in their season followed. Perry dropped a 70-66 decision to Woodward on Jan. 21. That was the start of four losses in six games. Two of those came consecutively in the Cashion County Line Tournament (Crossings Christian and Clinton). After the tournament, Hooker edged the Maroons at the Downtown Enid Basketball Festival.
Hight: We lost those four games in a two-week stretch where my best player had a pretty significant injury, but continued to play. I also had four guys test positive for the flu B right before the Hooker game and they played through it. I’ve always told my guys, “Sports are like life: You’re going to go through ups and downs and how you respond is important.” Plus we played in the Cashion tournament where five teams ultimately made the state tournament and Clinton was an area qualifier in 4A. I don’t think doubt ever crept in for us, but we talked as a team about how it was up to us to get things turned around one game at a time. No point in feeling sorry for ourselves.
Cashion won its first 11 games. Included was the Three Rivers Conference Tournament championship for the second straight year - after having never won it before 2019. The Wildcats beat 3A No. 10 Hennessey - the conference standard bearer for the last several years - 47-46 in the championship.
Hardaway: That was so big for us. Winning the conference tournament is really tough and Hennessey is such a tough team. They have really controlled things on the boys side since Brady (Page) has been there as head coach and they had one of the best kids around in Angel Rodriguez. Hennessey beat us most of that game. They ran a triangle-and-2 and we hadn't seen that all year. They played us like a program of their caliber should. Somehow we found a way. To win the conference tournament two years in a row, beating Hennessey two years in a row after having never won it before really speaks to the type of kids we have.
The win helped push Cashion to No. 7 in the next week’s rankings. A week and a half later, the Wildcats hosted their County Line Tournament, dubbed by most coaches on the boys’ side as the “Tournament of Champions.” Cashion, undefeated and ranked seventh in 2A, was the FIFTH seed. The Wildcats played 3A No. 9 Crossings Christian IN THE FIRST ROUND. Crossings emerged 62-60 on a last-second shot and ultimately won the tournament. Cashion “settled” for fifth place. However, the Wildcats sent more notice by defeating 2A No. 1 Dale 53-42 in that consolation championship.
Hardaway: That was a tough, tough loss, but we responded well the next day against Alva and I think having the opportunity to play No. 1 at the time on our home floor was a great opportunity.
Cashion’s tournament saw five of its boys teams (Cashion, Perry, Crossings, Dale, OCS) reach the state tournament in their respective class. Dale and Perry each went 1-2 in the tournament. Hardaway knew there was no “settling” for fifth place.
Hardaway: It was the hardest tournament in Oklahoma for schools 4A and below, there’s no question about it. Going into that week, obviously we wanted to win it, but anyone that found a way to win two games had an incredible tournament.
Cashion made another big leap in the rankings, this time all the way to No. 3, but still behind Dale. That changed the next week when the Wildcats cranked it up to No. 2 behind Oklahoma Union.
Perry’s turnaround started after the Hooker (another state tournament team) loss. The Maroons were hosting undefeated Pawnee and were without Drake. Still, they managed to earn a 55-51 overtime win. They followed that up with a win at 3A No. 12 Hennessey.
Hight: Going into the game against an undefeated Pawnee team, I knew it could be a turning point in the season. It provided an opportunity for my other two leading scores - Jace Goldsberry and Braxton Dale - to step up and also some of those secondary guys to take on a different role. They did, which provided some much-needed confidence. I think it gave those guys the mindset of how good they can be when we get Mason back. Beating a well-coached and good Hennessey team just kept that momentum going as we won nine straight after the Hooker loss.
However, Perry’s losses were ill-timed. The Maroons ultimately fell out of the coveted top-eight and were ranked 10th when the playoff assignments were released by the OSSAA. That meant Perry had to potentially deal with two top-eight teams in its quest to get to the state tournament. The Maroons won their final five regular season games to enter the playoffs with an 18-5 record.
Hight: We finished the season outside the top-eight even though I always felt like we were a top-five team, therefore we had a tough regional and area draw. So we talked about, “you might as well beat the best to get to state.”
The end of Cashion’s regular season was nightmarish. One brilliant local sports writer - ahem - dubbed it “Hell Week” and Cashion’s broadcast crew ran with it on Twitter. The Wildcats’ final five games were played during an eight-day stretch. They played at county rival Crescent, hosted conference rival Okarche (never a fun team to play) and then at conference rival Hennessey ON CONSECUTIVE DAYS. The last of those three games was a make-up after potential inclement weather forced its postponement earlier in the season. That game also decided the conference’s regular season champion, another title Hennessey has owned the last handful of years. Cashion blew out Crescent, hung on against Okarche, then got an OT win at Hennessey.
Hardaway: The game at Hennessey was pretty awesome. Once again, they outplayed us most of that game. We go to OT and then find a way to win and clinch the first regular-season championship. Brady's program, his kids and the success they have had are beyond impressive.
Two days later, Cashion traveled to Crossings Christian for a chance to avenge its only loss of the year. It didn’t happen, but it was another nail-biter as Crossings won in overtime. And then, just three days after that, Dale visited for the regular-season finale. Cashion dropped the third-ranked Pirates for the second time this year, this time by a single point. Cashion’s final four games – in which it went 3-1 – were decided by a grand total of 12 points. The Wildcats were primed for the playoffs with a shinty 21-2 record and the No. 2 ranking in Class 2A.
Hardaway: Murderers’ row proved to our team and to others that we were ready for the playoffs. All of those games bring not only quality opponents, but very high emotions and we knew for five games in a row we would get everyone's best shot. Crescent, Okarche, Hennessey, Crossings, Dale. With the exception of the Crescent game, they all came down to the last few possessions, but even Crescent always gives us a tough test.
In Part II, we’ll take a deep dive into the playoff runs for the Maroons and Wildcats as they took slightly different paths to the state tournament.
| Ben Johnson
Jade Allison is set to become the girls basketball coach at Coweta High School, pending board approval on Monday night.
Allison, whose name appears on the Coweta Public Schools’ school board agenda, recently served as the girls basketball coach at Bishop Kelley, where she took over that post in 2010.
Desiree Booker served as the girls basketball coach during the 2019-2020 season. The Tigers went 16-10 and won an area championship and were poised to take on Del City in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament. The event, however, was called off due to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association having to cancel all high school sporting events the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bishop Kelley girls went 9-17 this season and were eliminated from postseason play with a loss to East Central in area tournament play.
| Korry Rogers
If you're curious about how the COVID-19 curve is trending in your state, we've created a page with daily statistics and charts for every state in the US.
Visit https://skordle.com/COVID-19 to view the data.
| Michael Swisher
The OSSAA sent the following messages to Oklahoma high school athletic directors after their meeting today. As of now, the association is determined to reschedule 2A-6A state basketball and get spring sports played. #
| Ben Johnson
State tournament wrestling is this weekend, and small school basketball teams will be punching their tickets to the state tournament in area tournament play.
Listen in as we break it all down for you.
| Michael Swisher
Less than 24 hours after helping lead his team to another tournament championship, Bijan Cortes announced a big decision about his future.
The Kingfisher High School junior made it public early Sunday evening that he had committed to play basketball for the University of Oklahoma.