Well, that was fun.
Kingfisher County basketball teams took us on a ride for the ages over the last month, culminating last Saturday night in one of the more epic defensive performances ever witnessed by a State Fair Arena crowd.
But before I dive too deep into how I denied Chris Wilfong my last Reese’s Egg, let’s back up a week…
For a multitude of reasons, I couldn’t have been happier for Ray West.
Not only did he “finally” get the Okarche boys back to the state tournament, but he got to experience that with his son, Aaron, by his side as a coach.
The team’s area championship win over No. 2 Glencoe was one of the more satisfying I’ve seen for a team I’ve covered. I think few people gave Okarche a chance to win that game; none figured it to be a massive blowout in Okarche’s favor.
It was then even more fitting that Okarche employed the ol’ 1-3-1 trap to dispense of Kiowa in the first round.
To hear Ray talk about it afterwards was gratifying.
He knew he had that weapon in his arsenal and thought it would work, but didn’t want to use it too soon.
He did so at just the right time and it propelled the Warriors into the semifinals.
What happened there? Wrong team, wrong time.
It’s much like what happened to Glencoe when it faced Okarche in area. Cyril was just a team of destiny and it dispatched of everyone in its path, including four-time defending champ Fort Cobb-Broxton in the championship game.
The Pirates just weren’t going to be denied.
But, what also can’t be denied is that few people work harder than Ray West. Aaron, of course, is right there with him.
Nobody wants to win more, but when his teams do, he never publicly takes credit for it.
And not once privately, with me, has he ever taken credit. It’s always about the players.
His work put them in a great position to win this year and it was great to see all of them rewarded for it.
• • •
Down year for Lomega?
If you put a truth serum in Kevin Lewallen at the first of the year and asked him if he’d accept a trip to the Class B semifinals at season’s end, I’m betting he would have been ecstatic.
Sure, Lomega started out the season ranked high and it never lost that lofty perch.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t question marks going into the season.
Most of them, if not all, got answered.
Most remarkable to me was Lomega bouncing back from the devastating, last-second loss to Boise City/Keyes in the area championship game to defeat Timberlake the next night.
A lot of things were working against the Lady Raiders in that area consolation championship. Most notably was the fact the team was in the exact same position the year before and failed to get out of area.
Then there was the case of having defeated Timberlake three times already, and having struggled to do so each time.
The fourth time was a dominant performance.
Want another astounding fact?
Lomega has won at least one game in its last 23 trips to the state tournament.
First of all, consider that more than 90 percent of the programs out there can’t even sniff 23 appearances at state.
And then to win at least once 23 straight times? Astounding.
That dates back to 1985 when Leedey defeated the Lady Raiders in the quarterfinal round.
Since then? No first-round exits in nearly two dozen trips.
Ten of those belong to Lewallen as a head coach.
To say this year’s team overachieved would be disrespectful to the young ladies who suited up.
There was undoubtedly talent on the floor, as is nearly always the case for the team in blue and white.
But, as I said, there were a lot of questions about how that talent would mold itself.
It’s safe to say, it did so just fine.
• • •
And now to last weekend...
What can you say about the Hennessey Eagles?
Top to bottom, this year’s squad wasn’t Brady Page’s most talented.
It did, however, know how to win games.
Nowhere was that more apparent than in the playoffs.
The Eagles had to hit the road for their district and trailed Fairview after three quarters before pulling out a nine-point win.
In the regional, they got last-second stops in one-possession wins against Merritt and Carnegie.
Northeast was practically a blowout with that 10-point area win.
But then at state, the Eagles were out-manned by the likes of No. 2 Vanoss and No. 7 Rock Creek.
They found a way.
Against Rock Creek, it was a miraculous way, but that was a testament to their unwillingness to surrender in the face of adversity.
And Page deserves a heaping dose of credit.
No team in Class 2A has won more games the last four years than Hennessey (and most of those were earned while the Eagles competed in 3A).
While he had a strong core of players all four of those years, he is the constant.
Hennessey’s boys program has eight appearances at the state tournament. Four of them are with Page at the helm.
His calm demeanor no doubt is a factor in Hennessey’s ability to execute in a game’s most crucial and hectic moments.
His knowledge of the game and coaching pedigree can’t be questioned.
Page has state championships as a player and then again as an assistant with his father, David.
Now all that’s missing from his resume is a state championship as a head coach.
Those are so difficult to come by. It’s a combination of talent, skill, luck and right place, right time.
Maybe Page will get one; maybe he won’t. But if you watched Hennessey last weekend, you know better than to count him out.
• • •
I’ve heaped a lot of praise on the coaches of those three teams and that’s not to infer the players don’t deserve their share.
Even the best of coaches don’t reach state, much less the semifinals and finals, without talented players.
We’ve seen that firsthand.
It was great to see the six Okarche seniors earn a trip to state before they graduated.
It was great to see Mason Bomhoff, who broke his hand in the first game of the season, battle his way back and take part in those big Glencoe and Kiowa wins.
It was great to see guys like Angel Rodriguez and Hugo Rodriguez, overshadowed the last three years by Dalton Vinson and Carlos Rojo, get their shots to lead a team and make the most of it.
And it was great to see Lomega’s five seniors not allow the team to repeat its fate of a year ago...losing two straight games at the area tournament.
At different points this season, seemingly all of them stepped up in one way or another during the team’s biggest games.
There’s a lot of pride in those programs and the players played a massive role in continuing their respective legacies.
• • •
Three boys teams from Kingfisher County reached the state tournament in 2019 and only one on the girls side.
Is this an alternate universe we’re living in?
• • •
What about Kingfisher?
I’ve got plenty more to say about the Yellowjackets’ run to the state champioship, just not enough room in this edition.