SHAWNEE – Undefeated Earlsboro came around in the second half to take down a scrappy Sasakwa team 61-52 in the Little River Conference Tournament at North Rock Creek Tuesday.
The game was a step back for the Wildcats, who had been averaging 82 points per game while allowing 63 on average in their first seven games of the season. Earlsboro coach Russell Parsons said a lot of that lag came from the Wildcats playing flat in the game while Sasakwa shot the ball well and played with more passion.
“I felt like their level of intensity was better than ours tonight for sure,” he said.
The Wildcats led 31-24 with a minute left before the half, but a big block by Sasakwa's Chris Harjo, an and-one layup from Tommy Romph and 3-pointer by Houston Tiger closed the gap to 31-30 at the break.
Ka'Veon Sharp hit a layup and Elijah Stargell drained a three to start strong in the third and send Earlsboro on a 15-2 run for the first seven minutes of the quarter before allowing another and-1 layup by Tiger with 18.1 seconds left.
Sasakwa clawed back with a 7-0 run early into the third to make it a 7-point game, but an 8-2 rally by the Wildcats moved them further out ahead. Tiger drained a three and Sasakwa looked like they might get a late boost, but Sharp stripped the ball and made a fast break layup to deflate the Vikings' sails with 1:25 to go and take a 61-49 Earlsboro lead.
Tiger and Cody McDonald led all scorers with 21 points each for Sasakwa.
Sharp had 19 to lead the way for Earlsboro and Stargell had 13 points with three 3-pointers. Lucky Bohannon and Trenton Nadeau each had six points with two treys apiece.
Part of the problem, Parsons said, was that too many shots were being taken and not enough attacks were being made in the paint. The Wildcats went to the line eight times total in the game and made only three of those shots.
“We obviously settled for too many jump shots, too many three's... it shows we weren't in an attack-minded state of mind on offense,” he said.
The No. 1 in Class B Wildcats (8-0) will face unranked Varnum in the semi-finals of the tournament Thursday at 6:30. The boys remained unbeaten with the win, but Parson's team can ill afford another performance like they put on display Tuesday.
“I told these guys we won't survive another game like that in this tournament,” he said.
Varnum knocked off No. 13 in Class A New Lima 61-70 Tuesday. Earlsboro beat Varnum 79-48 earlier in the season and took down New Lima 90-85 last week. Parsons fully expects the Whippets to be improved from their first meeting to have beaten a New Lima team that has given them their closest game of the season thus far.
“They've got a young team who's getting more confidence all the time, so we'll need to play a lot better,” he said.