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Dale trio disappointed at not playing in state tournament last week

Brian Johnson

DALE – After the disappointment of a first-round exit at the 2019 Class 2A Boys' State Basketball Tournament, the third-ranked Dale Pirates were hoping for a shot at redemption last week.

But that shot didn't materialize after COVID-19 or the coronavirus wiped out all state tournaments along with so many other areas of life itself.

The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association is still open to the possibility of still staging the tournaments, but the very earliest time frame would be mid-April.

“We're still kind of holding out hope. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to play,” said Dale head coach Jeff Edmonson. “It's really frustrating and its tough not having that closure.”

The 22-7 Pirates were scheduled to face eighth-ranked Pawnee last Thursday when word came just a few hours before the start of the tournaments that play would not happen.

One frustrating factor for Edmonson was the fact that three of his seniors – Trae Thompson, Brady Johnson and Cedric Scott – wouldn't get the opportunity to experience state in their final season. Scott would have missed anyway due to a torn ACL, but Edmonson still feels bad for the trio as a whole.

For Thompson, he was and is anticipating that last shot.

“It was pretty disappointing with it being my senior year,” said Thompson. “I felt like we had a pretty good chance at making it all the way.”

The team found out about the postponement shortly after the Dale girls team left for their state tournament. The boys' team was in the gym doing a shoot-around when the announcement came over the intercom and the details were filled in by coach Edmonson.

“I was shocked. I just wanted to play and bounce back from last year,” Johnson said. “This year, I felt like we would really do something.”

Though Scott wouldn't be able to participate, his disappointment was evident as well.

“It hurt because this was something we practiced for and worked for all season,” said Scott. “It was just a shock.”

Dale was on a roll, winning four straight playoff games while coming out victorious in nine of its last 10 games.

“Our balance...a lot of balance was big for us,” Edmonson said. “We worked so good defensively and everybody played so hard.”

That balance in the scoring department included all five starters (Thompson, Johnson, Ike Shirey, Palmer Jones and Carter Crowe) averaging anywhere from 8-13 points per game on the season. Scott was in that category as well before going down with the injury.

Thompson attributes the Pirates' success this season to chemistry.

“We all grew up together and played together since the sixth grade,” said Thompson. “Playing ball is what we love to do. We knew how each other played and we kind of fed off each other.”

The disappointment of the opening-round loss in 2019 was motivation for Thompson and his teammates.

“It was kind of unfortunate last year. We had some sickness,” said Thompson. “This year, other than the injury to Cedric, we were stronger, healthier and we were hungrier.”

For Johnson, the close bond of the team was important.

“We're all very close. It's a close bond,” Johnson said. “We like to play together. Every guy had their role. We liked to move the ball, play and have fun. My role is to be active on defense and move the ball.”

Familiarity was a key for the squad, according to Scott.

“Knowing each other and being with each other every day has a lot to do with our chemistry,” said Scott. “Coach always told us that offense wins you games and defense wins championships. It started with our defensive sliding drills and how we were always prepared.”