Tahlequah Daily Press

March 6, 2013

Class 3A boys state tournament preview

Sports Editor

— Thursday (at Yukon)

Game 1: Sequoyah vs. Sperry, 2 p.m.

Game 2: Okemah vs. Crooked Oak, 3:30 p.m.

Game 3: Hugo vs. Millwood, 7 p.m.

Game 4: Verdigris vs. Okla. Centennial, 8:30 p.m.

Friday (at State Fair Arena)

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 10:30 a.m.

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 9 p.m.

Saturday (at State Fair Arena)

Game 7: Championship game, 9:15 p.m.

Sequoyah Indians

Record: 19-8.

Ranking: No. 8.

Coach: Jay Herrin.

Top players: Caisen Green (Jr, 6-2, forward), Ryan Helsley (Sr, 6-1, guard), B.J. Leach (Soph, 6-0, guard), T.J. Jones (Sr, 6-2, forward).

Path to state: Area I champion. Haskell posed little threat during district play, but the Indians barely beat Beggs during the regional semifinals. Then, after beating Henryetta for the regional crown, the Indians followed by knocking off No. 1 Centennial for spot in the state tournament.

Notes: Sequoyah is back in the state tournament for the first time since 2010. ... The Indians’ lone championship came back in 2003. ... Sequoyah has won four straight after entering the postseason on a two-game losing streak.

Sperry Pirates

Record: 22-4.

Ranking: No. 5.

Coach: Lance Kight.

Top players: Casey Cole (Jr, 6-6, forward), Blake Teel (Sr, 5-10, guard), Peyton Pratt (Soph, 6-0, guard).

Path to state: Area III consolation champion. The Pirates disposed of Chelsea, Eufaula and Keys during district and regional play. However, the Pirates were blown out by Verdigris in the area finals and needed overtime to get past Adair in the area consolation championship game.

Notes: Sperry is making its second straight appearance in the state tournament. Last season and this year are the only times Sperry has ever made the state tournament. ... Sperry lost to Washington in the first round of the state tournament last season ... Two Sperry’s four losses this season have come against Verdigris. The other two were to Lincoln Christian and Inola.

Okemah Panthers

Record: 24-3.

Ranking: No. 2.

Coach: Kale Simon.

Path to state: Area IV champion. Okemah breezed through Holdenville, Atoka and Sulphur during the district and regional rounds. The Panthers then blew out Hugo in the area finals for a spot in the state tournament.

Notes: This is Okemah’s third state-tournament appearance in the last five years. ... Two of Okemah’s three losses this year have come against the Oklahoma City Storm. ... The Panthers have not played a top-five team yet this season.

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.

Hugo Buffaloes

Record: 21-6.

Ranking: No. 10.

Coach: Darnell Shaklin.

Top players: Nick Brown (Sr, 5-9 guard), Kameron Cooper (Sr, 6-2, forward), Jordan Stafford (Jr, 6-4 forward), Trey Johnson (Jr, 5-11, guard), C.J. Scott (Sr, 6-3, forward).

Path to state: Area IV consolation champion. Hugo’s lone hiccup in the playoffs came against Okeman in the area finals. Other than that, wins over Tishomingo, Kingston, Spiro and Lexington have led to the Buffaloes making it to the state tournament.

Notes: Hugo is making its third state-tournament appearance in four years. ... The Buffaloes won a gold ball in 1995. ... Hugo is 2-2 against top-five teams this season.

Millwood Falcons

Record: 17-9.

Ranking: No. 3.

Coach: Varryl Franklin.

Path to state: Area II champion. A 43-40 win over Stroud in the area finals has been Millwood’s only challenge during the postseason. Victories over ASTEC Charter, Marlow and Marietta were easy to come by during the early rounds.

Notes: Millwood is making its 30th appearance in the state tournament. ... The Falcons have won 14 state titles, including the most recent in 2010. ... Millwood was ousted by Centennial in the 3A semifinals last season.