Tahlequah Daily Press

High School Sports

March 6, 2013

Class 3A boys state tournament preview


Crooked Oak Ruf-Nex

Record: 15-15.

Ranking: Not ranked.

Coach: Johnny Williams.

Top players: Steven Daniels (Jr, 6-1, forward), Sanardo Ballard (Soph, 5-11, guard), Kharon Norwood (Jr, 5-8, guard).

Path to state: Area II consolation champion. Crooked Oak went the long to pick up a state-tournament berth. The Ruf-Nex lost to Stroud during district play, meaning they had to win three straight in the regional and area rounds to make it to the state tournament. That’s what they did. Crooked Oak beat Harding Fine Arts, Washington and Prague during the regional portion, and it followed that up by knocking off Marietta, Lindsay and Stroud in the area tournament.

Notes: This is Crooked Oak’s first time in the state tournament since 2004. ... Daniels leads the Ruf-Nex in scoring and rebounding at 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. ... Norwood holds the team lead in assists per game at 4.5.

Verdigris Cardinals

Record: 23-4.

Ranking: No. 4.

Coach: Randy Upshaw.

Top players: Cade Upshaw, Blake Battenfield.

Path to state: Area III champion. The Cardinals made easy work of Newkirk (districts), Westville (regional semifinals) and Kansas (regional finals) before torching Sperry in the area finals for a spot in the state tournament.

Notes: This is Verdigris’ fifth state-tournament appearance in the last six seasons. ... The Cardinals won the state title in 2008. ... Two of the Cardinals’ losses came at the Port City Classic in Catoosa, when Verdigris lost to Tulsa Memorial in the semifinals and Victory Christian for third place.

Centennial Bison

Record: 21-8.

Ranking: No. 1.

Coach: Scott Raper.

Top players: Malcolm Mitchell, Austin Garner, Darrian Jackson.

Path to state: Area I consolation champion. The Bison were rolling right along in the playoffs until Sequoyah upended them in the area finals. Centennial, though, would bounce back and beat Oklahoma Christian School to claim a spot in the state tournament.

Notes: Centennial has won the last two 3A state titles. ... The Bison beat Victory Christian in the finals last year. ... Four of Centennial’s losses this season have come against clubs from Texas. Three of the other four losses came against 2A No. 1 Northeast, 4A No. 1 Douglass and 3A No. 2 Millwood.

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