The fourth-ranked Shawnee Wolves led from start to finish, built a big early lead and got plenty of court time for their reserves in rolling to a 71-38 rout of the Altus Bulldogs Friday night in the first round of the Class 5A regional tournament at the SHS Performing Arts and Athletic Center.
Shawnee, 19-5 on the season, advances to play Ardmore in Saturday night's 7 o'clock regional championship game. Ardmore's Tigers advanced to the title game by virtue of an 83-72 victory over Duncan earlier Friday.
The Wolves raced out to a 23-7 advantage through one quarter and went on an 18-9 run in the second in establishing a 41-16 lead at the break.
Shawnee forced 20 Altus turnovers on the night while collecting 13 steals as starting senior J'Briell Easley led the way with four and Karran Evans had three off the bench.
Because of the large lead, Shawnee head coach Ray Arthur mixed and matched his lineup with starters and reserves through much of the first three periods. No starter played in the fourth quarter.
In fact, more than half of the Wolves' points (38) came from the bench players.
“We talked about starting right, being fundamentally sound, not being sloppy and always staying focused,” said Arthur.
Easley not only led the Shawnee charge in steals, but he led them in points with 12 as he was 5-of-6 from the floor, with one 3-point basket, to go with four rebounds. Starter Tanner Morris and reserve Kaden Shaw tallied 10 points each as Morris drained a pair of treys. Shaw was perfect from the floor (4-of-4) and the foul line (2-for-2).
Ray McGirt added nine points off three 3-pointers as a reserve. Dahntay Graham was 3-of-3 from the floor with one trey in finishing with seven points. Isaiah Willis, Moses Martinez and Evans contributed six points apiece.
“McGirt hit some shots and has been fighting injury and sickness,” Arthur said. “Shaw was really big for us. It was just about a month ago when he started suiting up for the varsity. Every game has been a new learning experience for him and he's willing to learn. Those guys will be our future whether it's next year or tomorrow night.”
Derek Beach was the high scorer for Altus with 10 points, followed by Tyler Bush with eight and Brandon Ford with seven. The Bulldogs ended their season at 3-22.
Leading 11-7, the Wolves went on a 12-0 run in the final 2:26 of the first quarter as Morris uncorked a trey, Shaw and Evans followed with back-to-back buckets just 24 seconds apart. Martinez drilled a 3-pointer and Ka'Veon Sharp scored off an Evans steal and assist to inflate the Shawnee advantage to 16 at the end of the period.
Up by a 29-13 count in the second, Shawnee went on another 12-0 spurt as five different players got into the scoring act, including Shaw who registered consecutive scores. Easley had a steal and layup during that span, Morris nailed a jumper from 12 feet and Martinez connected for his second 3-pointer of the night to make it 41-13 with 13 seconds left.
Bush broke a five-plus minute scoring drought for the Bulldogs by hitting a trey at the halftime buzzer.
Friday's win assured the Wolves of a spot in next week's 5A area tournament, regardless of what happens in Saturday night's clash with Ardmore.