Hammon, OK 73650
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| Ben Johnson
Medals and trophies have been handed out to wrestlers across the state. Now it’s time for basketball teams to start claiming hardware.
Ben and Michael dive into Class A & B state basketball tournaments on tap this week, and they guys also make their predictions in each class.
Ben breaks down what happened at the state wrestling tournament and some of the various highlights along the way.
Also added a new segment where the guys named their MVPs of the week. Listen in and find out who they dubbed as last week’s MVPs.
All that leading up to Michael's interview with Okarche coach Ray West. You don't want to miss what West had to say.
Thanks for listening & enjoy!
Have any feedback? Email the show at email@example.com
| Ben Johnson
Drake Vannoy was pressed for time with wrestling season around the corner. Jenks’ football season didn’t end until Nov. 30, and the Trojans were slated to open their wrestling campaign less than a week later.
Good thing Vannoy had a championship pedigree to rely on.
The junior wasted little time reacquainting himself with the mat, starting the 2018-2019 wrestling season with a first place finish at the Chuck West Invitational in Bristow.
“My performances are starting to improve as I’m getting back into wrestling shape after football,” Vannoy said. “I’m starting to like the pace and intensity that I’m going at.”
And it would be hard to find any detractors right now, especially after coasting through the 152-pound field at the Jay Hancock Invitational in Yukon last weekend. Vannoy advanced to the finals with four wins by fall, and he capped the tournament off with a 19-2 technical fall triumph over Edmond North’s Jayden Villalobos.
“Drake has been dominating this year,” Jenks coach Ray Weis said. “He has had some learning matches, but he really imposes his will in most matches.”
And he’s been doing it since bursting onto the scene as a sophomore last season. Vannoy settled for a third place showing at last season’s Class 6A regional tournament, but he avenged his regional loss to Broken Arrow’s Brady Mattioda with a convincing victory between the two in the state tournament. Vannoy would eventually claim a state championship at 152 pounds, and this year he’s out to defend it.
“Drake is learning what it is like to be a defending state champion,” Weis said. “He has learned that everyone is going to wrestle him differently and he has to be intense every match. That has made him a better competitor and wrestler.”
With a fourth place finish at the Las Vegas Classic and a second-place showing at the Larry Wilkey Invitational, Vannoy said his main focus is to constantly put his opponents on the defensive.
“The biggest key to my success is my conditioning and ability to push the pace,” he said.
Jenks has two regular season duals left against Union and Owasso, and the Trojans will wrestle in the Glenpool tournament before venturing into postseason play, which includes dual state, regionals and the state tournament at the end of February.
**The last major tournament week of the basketball season means more than championship trophies and bragging rights.
It’s also the last chance for teams to make a major push before Monday’s rankings are submitted.
Those rankings are the last ones before the OSSAA releases playoff assignments for Classes 2A, 3A and 4A.
So, for a team like Bethany, which currently sits at No. 11 in 4A, could a win against No. 1 Kingfisher in the finals of the Buckle of the Wheatbelt (IF both make it there) be enough to vault the Bronchos into the highly-valued top-eight?
That’s what teams on the edge of the top-eight, whether in or out this week, will be looking to achieve in the biggest tournament week of the year.
**When Oklahoma City Public School Superintendent Sean McDaniel revealed three possible plans as part of its “Pathway to Greatness” initiative to the district school board Tuesday night, there was one glaring fact that would affect the state’s basketball landscape.
Each plan listed a number of potential school closings within the district. A few schools were listed in all three of them. One of them was Oklahoma Centennial Mid-High.
Barely a decade old, Centennial is already considered a basketball power.
It won back-to-back 3A championships in 2011 and 2012 and has contended for a title nearly every year since.
The Bison aren’t necessarily a power player this year. They’re currently 4-9 with two of those wins against home-school program OKC Storm North.
However, much of the rest of their schedule has been a brutally-tough one and the Bison will be a team nobody wants to see come playoff time.
But with the future of the school basically decided, what will become of the program?
Where will the current and future roster be going to school in the future?
What about head coach Kendal Cudjoe, part of one of the most respected basketball families in OKC?
All of that has yet to be decided, but when it happens, there will be a void in 3A and a boost to other programs who benefit from the school’s closing.
**A team to watch? How about the Clinton boys.
Not necessarily known for their basketball prowess, the Red Tornadoes are 12-3.
They staked their claim to be ranked Tuesday by knocking off No. 4 Anadarko, 61-48.
They’re the No. 1 seed in this week’s Tishomingo Invitational. A win there - or at least a strong showing - and the Reds just might be ranked come Monday afternoon.
It likely won’t affect their playoff draw much, but it will be a big boost to a program no doubt overshadowed by football.
**If you tuned into our Publics & Privates OKPreps Podcast this week, you heard me say Class B is as far down as I can remember.
That goes for boys and girls.
Doesn’t mean there aren’t quality teams on either side, but the depth and level of quality just isn’t there like it was three, four, five and more years ago.
On the podcast, I was specifically talking about Class B girls.
And - literally - as we were recording that last Friday night, Seiling was hammering home that point.
Class A’s top-ranked Ladycats took Hammon out to the ol’ proverbial woodshed with a 70-32 beating.
Now, there’s no shame in losing to Seiling. It is a team, after all, with two Division I signees in Macy and Karly Gore,
They embarrass lots of foes.
And I don’t think the margin of victory would be quite so much should the teams play again.
But, still, there’s a large gap between the best teams in A and the best teams in B.
That hasn’t always been the case.
*****Michael Swisher contributed to this report
| Ben Johnson
Bixby has been stingy when it comes to hoarding football championships. The Spartans have won four of the past five Class 6AII championships, and don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon.
What Bixby hasn’t claimed often since the turn of the century has been wrestling titles. Nic Roller’s individual championship at 220 pounds in 2016 has been the Spartans’ only crown since 1998.
But freshman Zach Blankenship is out to change all of that.
At 120 pounds, Bixby’s wrestling phenom is 24-0, and that includes four tournament championships to his credit so far.
“I didn’t really think I’d be having the season I am now,” Blankenship said. “I’m just thankful that I’ve been having this much success.”
Bixby came up short in its pursuit of the District 6A-7 crown on Tuesday night with a loss to Jenks, but Blankenship posted two victories and collected another one by forfeit. Those came only days after winning the Jerry Billings Invitational at Sapulpa, where he won by fall at 1:43 in the 120 finals against Collinsville’s Rocky Stephens, a 5A state champion at 113 last season.
“Zach has risen to the occasion and made a name for himself in the high school realm,” Bixby coach Brock Moore said. “He goes hard every second of every match and makes good things happen. He wants to wrestle the best guys he can. He’s fun to watch and coach.”
To reach the finals in Sapulpa, Blankenship won by fall against Sand Springs’ Riley Weir, who won last year’s 113 championship in 6A.
“His most impressive win so far might’ve been at Sapulpa, where he beat two-time state champion Riley Weir,” Moore said. “And that’s saying a lot for someone who has 21 wins by fall this season.”
Blankenship started the 2019 calendar year by winning the Larry Wilkey Invitational at Jenks. He knocked off Stillwater’s Cade Nicholas 4-2 in the finals.
“As a freshman, he has won four tournaments and has also been named the most outstanding wrestler at each of those tournaments, too,” Moore said. “I haven’t ever seen or known of another freshman to do that.”
Announcing his presence at the varsity level, Blankenship won the 120-pound division at the Perry Tournament of Champions in December. He cruised through the entire field with all of his victories by fall, including pinning Edmond Memorial’s Garrett Johnson at 3:32 for the 120 crown.
Not bad for someone who was wrestling among the junior high ranks not too long ago.
“The biggest difference between varsity and junior high has been the kids I’ve had to wrestle,” Blankenship said. “In junior high, the kids I had to wrestle were usually my age and size. In varsity, I’ve had to wrestle a lot older and bigger kids, which has made it a lot tougher.
“I’m just fortunate to have great coaches and parents who help me get better every tournament.”
‘Wrestleback’ Wildcats win Carl Albert tourney
It was Skiatook, Duncan, Piedmont and Altus vying for the Malcolm Wade Invitational crown at Carl Albert on Saturday, and with a quick glance it doesn’t appear as though Piedmont fared well. But on the contrary, Piedmont managed to claim the team title with only one individual champion.
The Wildcats, led by Josh Heindselman’s triumph at 285, finished with 242.5 points and won the tournament title. Skiatook (226) and Duncan (219) rounded out the top three.
“We were excited to win it,” Piedmont coach Erik Ford said. “We knew we had a chance going into the tournament. On Saturday, it was really exciting to see our guys score a lot of bonus points and really wrestle well on the backside of the bracket to give us the push that we needed.”
In the final match of the tournament, Heindselman recorded a pin at 2:37 against Lawton MacArthur’s Montana Phillips, who won last year’s 5A championship at heavyweight.
“Josh has been really impressive,” Ford said of the University of Oklahoma signee. “He weighs about 225 right now, so he is really wrestling up a weight. He has found another level as far as his movement and attacks go. His pressure and constant attacking has been the most impressive part about his wrestling this year. It has really allowed him to negate some of the size that he is giving up against heavyweights.”
Piedmont finished the tournament with 10 wrestlers recording top-six finishes. Tabor McLure (138) and Landis Scoon (152) both came in second place, and Mitchell Lance (132), Braden Culp (170) and Austin Cooley all posted third-place finishes atop the consolation bracket.
“Our guys learned that they can wrestle with some of the top 5A teams in the state,” Ford said. “…Our guys understand that winning the Carl Albert tournament is huge for our program, but they also know that our end-of-season goals as individuals and as a team are what we have been working for all year. And we’ll continue to work on those going forward.”
Other wrestling notes
- Edmond North picked up 194.5 points and won the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference (COAC) Tournament title on Saturday. Mustang was second at 191.
- Tuttle cruised to the Greg Henning Invitational crown on Saturday with 362 points.
Prep hoops notes
- There’s a new No. 1 in Class 6A boys after Edmond Memorial beat Edmond Santa Fe 56-42 in the championship game of the Bishop McGuinness Classic. Edmond Memorial was ranked fifth Saturday and moved up to 6A’s top spot, while Edmond Santa Fe dropped from No. 1 to third. Booker T. Washington is second in between the two.
- Crushing the field in the Putnam City West Invitational wasn’t enough to move Heritage Hall (14-0) to the top of the 4A coaches’ poll. The Chargers are still second behind top-ranked Kingfisher (11-1). Heritage Hall’s Trey Alexander scored 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Chargers’ win over PC West in the finals.
- It's a big week for the state's two smallest classes as playoff assignments will be released Friday by the OSSAA (as if 95 percent of the coaches don't already know, through the grapevine, where they're headed). We're told David Glover, who makes the assignments for 4A and below, was about 99 percent finished with the assignments early this week. A committee meeting was held Wednesday, which generally leads to a few tweaks. Most of those are host sites, although sometimes teams are moved to different regionals or areas as a result of those meetings. No doubt a lot of people will be up in arms once the assignments are released, but that happens every year. What it does signify is that the playoffs are near and we all love that part of the season.
- One of those small school teams got a big boost during the holiday break. The Duke boys, already undefeated and ranked second in Class B, added Jameson Richardson to the roster at the beginning of this semester. Richardson, a 6-foot-8 junior forward with a load of versatility, transferred from his hometown of Mangum. He averaged right around 20 points and was a solid rebounder and rim protector for Mangum in his eight games prior to the move. Duke was already manhandling most opponents before his arrival, but hasn't been played closer than 18 points (61-43 over Granite last week) since his arrival.
- Next week is the biggest tournament week of the basketball season and it will be loaded with top matchups. However, a couple of No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns already took place during girls championship games during last week's slate. In Class 2A, top-ranked Dale held off No. 2 Howe 65-55 at the Kingston New Year's Classic. Howe's Jalei Oglesby was "held" to 31 points. "She missed a few shots and eventually fouled out or she would have had more," said first-year Dale coach Eric Smith, who led Alva to a pair of titles and got Frontier to last year's Class A title game. "She is unbelievable." Dale, led by Lacey Savage's 18 points, improved to 14-1 with the victory, which very well could have been a state championship preview. Down in Class B, No. 1 Hammon defended its Warrior Classic championship by earning a 50-44 come-from-behind win over No. 2 Lomega. Last year, Hammon was No. 2 when it beat No. 1 Lomega in the finals and it carried that momentum to a state championship. This time around, Hammon had to outscore its guests by seven in the second half to win. Five different Lady Warriors scored at least six points, led by 13 from Halee Morris. Kenedie Walker scored seven of her 10 in the fourth quarter. Lomega got 14 points each from Mady Meier and Courtney Fox.
Girls Basketball | | Jacob Unruh | NewsOK
The dogpile was small, but a long time coming for a program and its veteran coach.
Eight Hammon girls basketball players piled near midcourt of State Fair Arena on Saturday night. Head coach Leah Beer just pointed to the sky and then hugged her assistant coaches.
She hugged guard Morgan Miller and then pointed her to the dogpile. She was the ninth and last to join the party.
Girls Basketball | | Jacob Unruh | NewsOK
Hammon junior Morgan Miller just couldn’t get her shots to fall. So, she went for the easy way.
Miller opened the fourth quarter Friday evening with a steal and layup, and things just opened up for Hammon the rest of the way.
A one-point lead became double digits.