OKLAHOMA CITY – Fans in attendance at Saturday's Class B boys state championship basketball game were treated to what may be one of the more memorable games in the tournament's history. The No. 1 ranked Earlsboro Wildcats gave it all they had but wound up just inches shy of the gold globe trophy as they lost to No. 2 Red Oak 47-46 in double overtime to finish the season as runner-up.
“We played well enough to win it,” Earlsboro coach Russell Parsons said. “You know, a free throw here or there, a finish around the rim here or there was the difference in the game for either team. In regulation and overtime both. We had our opportunities, we weren't quite able to close the door...
“I think it was clear, to me, in my eyes the two best teams in Class B were here today on the final day of the season and played what I would imagine is one of the most exciting, better games in Class B finals history. I don't know how many double overtime games there have been, but there can't be that many.”
The game was anyone's from the start, but two shots with different outcomes proved to be all it took in the end.
Trailing by one and guarded by three Wildcats defenders right on top of him, Red Oak's Grayson Nix somehow broke through the Earlsboro barrier to make a bucket with 6.4 seconds left in the second overtime. Parsons called time out to set up one last play and the Wildcats went to work.
Ka'Veon Sharp inbounded the ball to Trey Herron who flipped it right back to Sharp to drive down the court in short time. Sharp crossed down the top of the key to dish out to Garrett Lena for a left wing three. The shot looked like it would be on target but tapped the rim just enough to bounce out and give Red Oak the win.
Parsons hopes that people remember the game for what it was and not just the missed shot at the end.
“One play does not win or lose a basketball game, and I hate that people will look at the play that happens to be at the end of the game,” he said. “But one play doesn't win or lose a basketball game. Both teams had their opportunities.”
The sting of the loss may never leave, but one day the team will hopefully be able to look back and see the accomplishment they made.
“I think that eventually, once some of the pain wears off and probably not all of the pain, I don't know if all of it will ever wear off, but once some of that wears off, we'll be able to look back with an open mind and see how great this season was, how much these boys accomplished,” Parsons said.
The Wildcats led 40-36 with 1:30 left in the fourth before Red Oak's Nix and Jacob Armstrong put in buckets and tied up with 42 seconds left in regulation.
Nix made a front-end free throw and a basket to give the Eagles a 43-40 lead in the first overtime, but a steal and layup by Elijah Stargell made it a one-point game to get Earlsboro back into it with 1:44 remaining. Armstrong put in a shot for Red Oak to go ahead by three and Trenton Nadeau buried a 3-pointer to tie up at 45 and force the second overtime.
Earlsboro trailed 22-21 at the half and a 7-3 run gave Red Oak a 29-24 lead with two minutes elapsed in the third frame.
Herron was fouled on a layup and put in the free throw to start the Wildcats down a 10-0 run to the 4:07 mark of the third, capped on a trey from Lena to lead 40-36. Nix made a layup and Armstrong put one in to tie it back up and continue the back and forth.
Red Oak shared scoring amongst three players, with Nix leading all scorers with 26 points and six rebounds. He's been key to Red Oak's success Parsons said.
“Great player. That's all there is to it. He's a great player,” he said.
Armstrong had 15 and was 3-3 from 3-point range and Will Edington put in six. The Eagles shot 49 percent from the field and were 3-7 on the long shot.
Stargell led Earlsboro with 17 points, six boards and two steals and Herron had 12 points with nine rebounds and was 3-9 on three's. Lena had eight points, Sharp six and Nadeau three. The team shot 25 percent from 3-point range and was 35 percent from the field.
The Wildcats finish the season with a record of 29-2. Lena, Stargell, Herron, Austin Cox and Tyler Ybarra are due to graduate in the spring. Regardless of the finish, Parsons will fondly look back on the season as one of the greatest times in his career.
“It was the best time of my life as a basketball coach, as far as my career goes,” he said. “I can't ask for anything better. I just told those guys that they were a joy to have in practice. The chemistry was so great with these guys. You didn't have tension or problems. They really, truly love each other.”