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Bound for state

February 27, 2019 - 00:00
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Okarche stuns No. 2 Glencoe, 73-37, for area championship

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    BACK TO STATE - The Okarche boys basketball team poses with the Class A Area I championship trophy after throttling Glencoe last Friday night in Enid. The Warriors are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2012. [TIMES &

Police cars and fire trucks were blaring their sirens.

The streets were lined with cars honking their horns and fans cheering.

The Okarche caravan was in full effect.

As the Okarche bus began to enter the town limits late Friday night, head boys basketball coach Ray West leaned over to his son, Aaron, the assistant coach who was driving the bus, and said:

“Man, I’ve missed this right here.”

The town-wide reception, complete with a police and fire escort through town, is an Okarche tradition exercised any time any team reaches any state tournament.

It had been six years since the boys basketball team got to take part in one.

That streak is over.

The Warriors blasted No. 2 Glencoe 73-37 last Friday night at the Central National Bank Center in Enid to claim a Class A area championship and return to state for the first time since 2012.

“It’s really a thrill,” West said of the celebratory caravan. “That’s why I’m glad this group got to experience that.”

On paper, eighth-ranked Okarche shouldn’t have been taking part in the caravan on Friday night.

On the basketball court, it was a different matter.

The Warriors exploded for a 37-point second quarter to take a 54-31 halftime lead.

Once Glencoe couldn’t cut into the lead early in the third quarter, the Panthers opted to pull back and save energy for Saturday night’s game, one in which they also advanced to state by hammering Shattuck 86-57.

“They can really score,” West said of Glencoe, which entered the area championship with a 26-1 record. “We just played really good defense and then hit our shots on offense. Then it started snowballing.”

The Warriors were 19 of 40 (47.5 percent) in the first half while Glencoe was limited to 11 of 28 shooting

(39.3 percent).

“We feel like we can score in bunches like that,” West said. “At halftime I looked up at the scoreboard and thought, ‘my gosh, we’re really rolling.’”

The Warriors also forced 24 turnovers for the game and scored 34 points off of them.

Nobody made more shots than Cris Avila.

The senior guard finished his night with 32 points.

He had 27 at halftime, 23 of those in the second quarter.

Kaleb Harris added 14 points and Tucker Neuenschwander 12.

Now a class of six seniors get to experience a state tournament before graduating.

“These are great kids, all of them,” West said. “They’ve worked hard and deserve to be rewarded.”

Okarche plays No. 4 Kiowa (27-4) at 2 p.m. Thursday in the state quarterfinals at Mustang High School.

After losing to Whitesboro in its regional final, Kiowa won three straight games at area, including Saturday’s 46-41 overtime victory against No. 5 Wright City, which won Class 2A a year ago.

This is the program’s 16th overall trip to the state tournament and 11th under West in his 25 years at Okarche.