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Wolves hold back El Reno for Class 5A State Tournament berth

Brian Johnson
Sports Editor
Members of the Shawnee High School boys' basketball team and coaches display their trophy after claiming a Class 5A area regional consolation title on Saturday.

NORMAN – A massive comeback by the 13th-ranked El Reno Indians didn't shake the fourth-ranked Shawnee Wolves Saturday night in the Class 5A area consolation finals at Norman North High School.

Having a lead by as big as 18 points (30-12), Shawnee saw El Reno go on a huge 19-2 run, covering late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, to pull within one, 32-31, with 6:23 to go.

But seven straight points, keyed by a pair of assists by Ka'Veon Sharp and one from Jaylon Orange, set the stage for a 61-56 victory as the 21-6 Wolves landed a berth in the Class 5A State Tournament, which begins Thursday.

Isaiah Willis, who tallied 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor, scored off a Sharp feed. Sharp then set up Orange for his first and only 3-point basket of the night and then Orange assisted on a trey by Karran Evans to give the Wolves a little breathing room at 39-31.

Shawnee later connected on 8-of-8 free throws in the final 28 seconds to come away with the win. Tanner Morris, who led the Wolves with 15 points, sank four of those free shots during that span while Orange and Sharp converted two each. Morris was 10-of-11 from the charity stripe for the game.

Sharp ended up with 10 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals.

“I think we just had to get it together,” said Sharp. “We needed to be sound on defense and we needed to drive it and get in the bonus.”

The first four free throws during that game-ending stretch – two each by Orange and Morris – came in one-and-one situations.

The Wolves' trip to the state tournament will be the first since 2017 in which they beat Piedmont to advance and suffered a first-round loss to Claremore.

Shawnee is set to face fifth-ranked Tulsa Edison Prep Thursday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the Class 5A State Tournament at Skiatook High School. The Shawnee-Edison winner will then face the Del City-Bishop Kelley winner Friday in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. at the Oral Roberts University Mabee Center. Del City is the top-ranked team in 5A while Bishop Kelley is 17th.

“You have to give El Reno credit. They started to hit shots, but we didn't get rattled at all,” said Shawnee head coach Ron Arthur. “We had unbelievable focus down the stretch and our defense was really good in the first half.”

El Reno, which hit 8-of-11 shots from the floor in the third quarter, managed just seven points by halftime as it trailed by 15 points, 22-7. However, the Indians scored 13 unanswered points in the final 3:56 of the third to slice the deficit to 30-25.

El Reno eventually pulled within 32-31 with 6:23 remaining in the game, before the Wolves' fangs appeared to grow rapidly while forcing some turnovers.

“We went into what we refer to as 'hot.' We were on their No. 5 (Jay Gililland) and their No. 20 (Kevin Bigfoot) and kept them from catching the ball and Jaylon being on (Darius) Moore kind of made things disruptive,” Arthur said. “They turned the ball over some.”

Moore led the Indians with 15 points. Bigfoot followed with 12 and Kolton Hunt chipped in 10 off the bench.

Up by a 10-7 count in the second quarter, Shawnee scored 12 straight points in the final 4:09 of the half to build up the 15-point cushion at the break. Morris supplied seven points during that span – a 3-point basket, a free throw and and a steal which led to an old-fashioned 3-point play with 13 seconds left. Sharp had a free throw and a bucket during that 12-point uprising and Willis scored off a Morris feed.

The Wolves twice built leads of 18 in the third, but struck an iceberg after that. Shawnee went scoreless for almost five minutes, spanning the third and fourth quarters before Morris canned two free shots to make it 32-27. Back-to-back baskets by Hunt and Gililland trimmed the deficit to one.

However, the Wolves buckled down and went to work with the 7-0 run and solidly-executed defense.