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Gold ball dreams dashed

March 29, 2020 - 00:00
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OSSAA board votes to officially cancel 2A-6A state basketball

  • Article Image Alt Text
    CASHION COACH John Hardaway goes down the bench to high-five his players as his team was locking up its first state tournament bid since 1996. The Wildcats never got a chance to compete at state.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Bijan Cortes. He was trying to help the Yellowjackets earn their third state championship in four seasons. The top-ranked team in 4A also never got a shot to defend their crown.

When the OSSAA was forced to postpone the state basketball tournaments two weeks ago, there was guarded optimism that champions would eventually be crowned.

That optimism was shut down Thursday.

The OSSAA board of directors in a virtual meeting voted unanimously to officially cancel the tournaments. The vote also included canceling all spring sports for 2020.

It came on the recommendation of OSSAA Executive Director David Jackson.

During his recommendation, Jackson said the OSSAA staff had worked diligently since the postponement to ensure the tournament would take place.

However, he said, after the State Board of Education voted Wednesday to shut down school buildings and extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year, Jackson said the picture changed.

“With the end of the school year, that changed things for us,” he said. “And we absolutely understand why.”

The move ended the state championship hopes of two county teams.

Cashion’s boys had qualified for the state tournament in Class 2A and Kingfisher’s boys in 4A.

“I’m just heartbroken for my players, their parents, families and friends,” said Cashion coach John Hardaway.

Cashion hadn’t advanced beyond the regional tournament since 1997.

The Wildcats not only won their regional to get to area for the first time in more than two decades, but also won an area consolation crown to reach state for the first time since 1996.

“All of them deserved that experience of being at state,” Hardaway said.

Thursday’s decision put an end to an emotional time for all involved, he added.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster since that Thursday we were supposed to play,” Hardaway said.

Kingfisher was looking for its third state championship in four years.

The Jackets had a chance to set a school record for wins and continue the most prolific stretch of success in the program’s history.

Now they’ll have to settle for “what if.”

“Making it to the state tournament again was another step closer to the gold ball,” said junior Bijan Cortes, who led the team in scoring, assists and steals and was second in rebounding.

Cortes committed to play for the University of Oklahoma in late January.

“It was really tough for all of us to not get to play at state, especially for the seniors that I wish could get another chance,” he said.

Coach Jared Reese wants to ensure this team isn’t forgotten due to the lack of postseason closure.

“I want to do something for them so when the kids come back years later, there will be something there that recognizes them,” Reese said.

The Jackets were ranked No. 1 in Class 4A all season.

They won their first 25 games and extended the program win streak to 47 games, which is among the top-10 all-time in Oklahoma history.

They did so while being the defending state champs.

“I know there are bigger problems out there right now, but at some point I would like for our guys to be recognized,” Reese said.

“I’d hate for this season to be forgotten.”