By LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
SAND SPRINGS — After a two-year absence, the Sequoyah boys’ basketball team is heading back to the state tournament.
After trailing two-time state champion No. 1 Oklahoma Centennial by 15 points at halftime and by as much as 18 points, the Indians used a 21-point third quarter to propel them to a 71-67 overtime victory Friday night before a raucous crowd at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs.
“I really want to thank our crowd,” coach Jay Herrin said. “I told our kids, I don’t think anyone else in the state played before a crowd that loved them more and cheered harder than we did. That’s what made it special; when they’re in the game it gives us some energy.”
Senior Ryan Helsley ignited the largely maroon-and-silver clad throng by scoring 11 of his 19 points in the third quarter, including six straight points after a Sequoyah timeout. Senior T.J. Jones scored 20 points and sophomore Quinton Johnson added 12 off of the bench, going 8-12 from the free throw line.
“We got some huge contributions from our bench,” Herrin said. “We’re a team. We’re not about one kid. Just have to keep plugging in the pieces of that team until we get the right combination and we found it tonight.”
After failing to make it out of the regional tournament last year, Sequoyah will find out Sunday who their opening round opponent will be Sunday afternoon. All Class 3A state tournament games will be played in the Oklahoma City area starting Thursday. Among the qualifiers from Friday night are No. 2 Okemah (23-3), No. 3 Oklahoma City Milwood (17-9) and No. 4 Verdigris (23-4).
“We didn’t play perfect, we played hard enough and believed and got the job done,” Herrin said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of my kids.
“They’re going to celebrate tonight and are going to be on a high through the weekend. Every year our goal is to get to the state tournament. When you get there, you try to re-evaluate and figure out how to win it. That’s our next job.”
Oklahoma Centennial junior Malcolm Mitchell led all scorers with 21 points. Early foul trouble plagued the Bison, as the Indians reached the double bonus in the first quarter. Two Oklahoma Centennial players, senior Darrian Jackson and junior Austin Garner, fouled out in the second half.
When whistled for his fourth foul at the beginning of the Indians’ third quarter rally, the 6-7 Garner also received a technical foul, thus disqualifying him for the rest of the night. With Garner on the bench, Sequoyah outrebounded Oklahoma Centennial 18-8 during the second half and overtime, thus opening the door for a trip back to the Big House.
“These guys have some pride,” Herrin said. “They didn’t like getting kicked around and they responded in a way that was just hurt feelings a little bit, so we decided we were going to play. We can ignite pretty quickly and when someone makes a shot, they all think they can make some shots.”
Sequoyah 71, Centennial 67 OT (boys)
Sequoyah 7 8 20 24 12 71
Centennial 15 13 12 19 8 67
Sequoyah: Jones 20, Helsley 19, Johnson 12, Green 9, Parrish 6, Harron 5
Centennial: Mitchell 21, Garner 13, McKiver 11, Boxx 10, Jackson 5, Davis 5