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Wolves, Willis slam Ardmore for 5A regional crown

Brian Johnson
Sports Editor
Members of the Shawnee High School basketball squad celebrate after capturing a regional title with a 69-60 victory over Ardmore Saturday night.

The Shawnee Wolves were in dire need of a spark and 6-foot, 5-inch junior Isaiah Willis obliged.

Willis scored 16 of his team-high 20 points after halftime and juiced up the highlight reel with three sensational slam dunks, two in the second half, as fourth-ranked Shawnee knocked off the scrappy and 16th-ranked Ardmore Tigers, 69-60, to capture a Class 5A regional championship Saturday night at the SHS Performing Arts and Athletic Center.

“Before the game my dad said just go up and dunk it,” said Willis. “It got the team hyped up and we started playing better defense. It was a matter of going up strong and me being consistent.”

Willis not only did a scoring number on Ardmore while going 9-of-11 from the floor, but he also pulled down eight rebounds and recorded two steals as he scored off a couple of put-backs and even executed a fast-break lay-in.

With such a superb outing as Saturday, Willis seemed to gain even more confidence going forward.

“The thing I can take from this is to not be afraid and to be going up strong,” Willis said.

The victory was the 20th of the season for the Wolves against five losses. It was also the first time that a Ron Arthur-coached team has reached the 20-win plateau in his 16 seasons at the helm.

Joining Willis in double-figure scoring were sophomore guard Jaylon Orange with 15, followed by senior Ka'Veon Sharp and sophomore Tanner Morris with 10 each. Morris also snatched eight boards. Sharp also registered a pair of steals.

Senior J'Briell Easley chipped in seven points, four boards and a steal and Karran Evans, off the bench, supplied six points, five rebounds and a steal.

Shawnee forced 16 Ardmore turnovers with 10 of those coming in the final two quarters.

The Wolves also displayed efficiency on offense, shooting 52% from the floor for the game and committing only 12 turnovers against some intense pressure defense from the Tigers. Shawnee ended up 17-of-24 from the foul line (70.8%).

Anthony Jones fired in a game-leading 23 points for Ardmore as he finished 9-of-11 from the field to go with seven rebounds. Daylon Williams added 10 points and six boards in a reserve role.

The Tigers shot just 43.3% from the field and were only 52.6% from the charity stripe (10-of-19).

The Wolves trailed 20-13 after one quarter and were down by a 27-25 count with just over four minutes to go before halftime. However, Shawnee closed the half with an 11-0 run and managed to stay on top for good while building a 36-27 advantage at the break.

Two free throws each from Evans and Easley jump-started the spurt. Orange then scored seven straight points as his first basket was a trey.

The Wolves twice established leads of 15 points in the third quarter and were up by a 56-42 score with 7:36 remaining in the fourth. But Ardmore stayed in contention and clipped the Shawnee lead to 63-58 with 2:34 left.

Willis' third and final dunk off a pocket pass from Sharp made it 65-58 with 1:49 to go and, 30 seconds later, Orange scored off a drive to the hoop to make it 67-58 with 1:08 remaining.

The Tigers' final points came when Williams was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 58 seconds left. Williams missed the first free shot, but hit the next two to trim the deficit to 67-60.

The Wolves even committed a turnover with 50 seconds to go. But a charging call against Ardmore with 43 seconds remaining helped seal the game. Shawnee hit just 2-of-6 free throws in the final 32 seconds, but it didn't matter.

Two chances at a state tournament berth await the Wolves as they face third-ranked Carl Albert Friday in the Class 5A area finals at 6:30 p.m. at Norman North High School. The Shawnee-Carl Albert winner advances to state. The loser will have a chance at a state berth Saturday at 8 p.m. at Norman North against the Piedmont-El Reno winner.