KHS holds off Storm for 2nd unbeaten regular season in 3 years
As the Kingfisher coaches sat in their office late Monday night, you’d hardly know their team just made more history.
That’s what happens when a team allows 31 points in the fourth quarter and nearly surrenders a 27-point lead.
Nonetheless, the Kingfisher Yellowjackets weathered the OKC Storm 69-61 at the APB on Senior Night to finish the regular season 22-0.
It’s just the second time in the program’s history to go through the regular season without a loss. The first was the 2017-18 campaign.
“The kids work hard to make something like this happen,” said KHS coach Jared Reese, whose team has now won 44 consecutive games. “They deserve a lot of credit for that.”
But Reese and fellow coaches Chris Combs and Danny Green were left to scratch their heads after the Jackets built a seemingly insurmountable lead against the dangerous Storm, then nearly let all of it slip away.
The Jackets dominated the third quarter and went up 51-24 on a breakaway dunk by Matthew Stone.
However, KHS got sloppy in the final few moments of the quarter and allowed a pair of Storm 3-pointers to end the frame.
The trend continued throughout the fourth quarter.
Kingfisher turnovers and missed shots that are normally converted easily turned into Storm points.
Five of the visitors’ buckets were 3-pointers during that run.
Peyton Ackerman had two of them while Cooper Peterson, Jarrett Grisham and Isaac Farris made one each.
Farris’ trey, his only points of the game, came with 1:00 to play and pulled the Storm within 66-61.
Bijan Cortes attacked on the opposite end and coaxed a fifth foul out of Farris and sank both free throws with 49 seconds to play.
The Storm missed a 3-point attempt on its next possession and Stone grabbed the rebound - one of 17 in the game - before being fouled.
He made 1 of 2 fouls shots for the final margin. Kingfisher got one more stop and dribbled out the clock to grab the win.
It came despite being outscored 31-18 in the fourth quarter.
“We played like we were down 10 points instead of up 10 to 15 during some stretches,” Reese said. “We showed that we still have a lot of work to do when we’re being pushed late in a game.”
The Storm, who own a 57-40 win over Heritage Hall, were the only team to play KHS within single digits this season. A 12-point win at Bethany on Feb. 4 was Kingfisher’s closest game entering the night. Nobody else played KHS closer than 19 points.
“We needed to be challenged, which is why we put a team like the Storm (a home school team) on the schedule,” Reese said. “Now we just need to respond better when we get that challenge.”
KHS faced adversity early when Stone picked up two quick fouls and had to spend time on the bench.
He would - again, quickly - pick up a third foul upon returning in the second quarter.
Still, the Jackets managed a 24-16 halftime lead.
Peterson made three treys for all his team’s first-quarter points, but didn’t score again until the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Cortes started to heat up in the second.
He scored seven points and assisted Maverick Ridenour on two treys.
Then, for seven minutes in the third, the Jackets put on a clinic.
Cortes scored 10 points, Stone six and Ridenour and Harrison Themer knocked down 3-pointers as Kingfisher’s lead swelled.
“At one point, I thought, ‘We are really good,’” said Reese of the third quarter. “Ten minutes later, I had some different thoughts.”
Disgust with the fourth quarter aside, Reese can’t deny his team’s qualities.
He noted Stone’s rebound total, which included seven on the offensive end.
KHS had 12 second-chance points and 32 points in the paint.
Stone and Jarret Birdwell accounted for most of them. Stone scored 14 to record another double-double while Birdwell scored six.
Ridenour and Themer combined for five 3-pointers. Ridenour scored 11 and Themer, who got the start on Senior Night, had six.
Then there’s Cortes. Although he and Stone both had lapses down the stretch (they combined for 12 turnovers), he also made sure the Jackets never lost their lead.
The junior guard scored 31 points, grabbed 11 boards and had a team-high six assists. He scored 22 in the second half.
“He’s really, really good,” said Reese. “And we needed him to be that way tonight.”
Grisham, only a freshman, led the Storm with 23 points. Peterson finished with 14 while Ackerman scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.