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March 12, 2021 - 11:12
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Kingfisher flexes semifinal muscle in 58-33 win over Classen SAS

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    KHS PLAYERS and coaches celebrate after the semifinal win over Classen SAS. The Jackets play at 6 p.m. Saturday for their third state title since 2017. [Photo by Kaitlin St. Cyr]

By Michael Swisher

KT&FP Managing Editor

Before 2017, the state championship game was foreign territory for the Kingfisher boys basketball team.

Now it’s like a second home.

The Jackets will be making their fourth straight appearance in the game Saturday after a dominant showing in “Breakfast at the Big House.”

KHS put away Classen SAS at Northeast in the third quarter in a 58-33 semifinal win Friday at State Fair Arena.

“You never want to take it for granted,” KHS head coach Jared Reese said as his squad improved to 24-1.

“Getting to the state tournament, especially in 4A, is so hard. To get to the championship game is that much more difficult. For us to do it four years in a row says a lot about the special group of kids we’ve been fortunate enough to have.”

Up by 12 at half, the Jackets used a 17-3 run to help build a 27-point lead entering the fourth quarter. 

The wealth was widespread, but it was Jarret Birdwell who lit up the Kingfisher crowd when he took a Bijan Cortes pass and threw down a monstrous two-handed dunk.

Just seconds later, he followed up a missed layup with a putback to give the Jackets a 36-17 lead and force the Comets’ second timeout of the quarter at 4:51.

The lead continued to swell as Cortes and Maverick Ridenour scored following the timeout. 

When Cortes powered a traditional three-point play with less than a minute to go in the quarter, the crowd again erupted.

Kingfisher’s starters were done for the day less than three minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Jackets’ multiple weapons were on display as four players reached double figures, but none scored more than 14.

Birdwell hit that total and also led the team in rebounds.

Matthew Stone contributed 14 points and six boards.

Kingfisher out-rebounded the Comets 32-27.

“That was one of the keys for us was to control the boards and we were able to do that,” Reese said. “We didn’t give them many second opportunities in the third and that led to a lot of big buckets on the other end.”

Ridenour scored 12 points while Cortes scored 11 and added six rebounds.

Ridenour hit a 3-pointer at 3:27 of the first quarter to cap a 7-0 run by the Jackets that started with two Birdwell buckets.

That gave KHS a 9-2 lead.

Classen’s Camari Smiley swiped the ball from Stone and nailed a long 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer to pull the Comets within 11-8.

They never got closer.

Stone scored seven points in the second, including a putback at the halftime horn for a 26-14 advantage.

The Jackets weren’t sharp from long range for the second straight state game. They made just 2 of 10 3-pointers.

However, they were 21 of 37 (57 percent) inside the arc.

Classen shot just 26 percent overall.

The seventh-ranked Comets’ 49-47 win against Mount St. Mary in the quarterfinals was their lowest offensive output of the season entering the semifinals.

Classen’s season ends with a 17-3 record.

Anthony Turner led them with 15 points while grabbing six rebounds.

The Jackets and No. 2 Heritage Hall battle each other at 6 p.m. for the title. It’s the third time in four years they meet with the championship on the line.

The Chargers denied KHS a repeat by winning in 2018.

The Jackets avenged that loss in 2019’s championship.

They both qualified for the 2020 tournament, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.