By Chuck Reherman, Sports Editor – HAMMON – Southwest Covenant’s athletic teams have been making school history in the 2017-18 school year.
The Patriot basketball team set another mark Saturday night, but it was a bittersweet mark.
Southwest Covenant won the school’s first ever regular season tournament with a 79-53 win over Lomega in the finals of the Warrior Classic in Hammon.
The tournament was the first games the Patriots have played since losing former teammates Luke Ross and Sean Tucker in a fatal car accident the same night the Patriots had played their final game of the 2017 season.
The tournament final was dedicated to the two former players memory. But, it wass not done with a lot of fanfare or vocally. It was done from within and from the heart.
“It’s just a game,” SWCS head coach Kevin Cobbs said. “I know it’s just a game. And when compared to the heaviness that our team has felt the last three weeks, we have no problem keeping this in perspective. But we needed this. Three weeks ago this team was devastated after losing two friends, two teammates, two brothers. So we know full well how to keep a game in perspective.
“I also know how rare it is for a Patriot team to play in the finals of a regular season tournament,” he said. “We’ve won District, Regional, and Area tournaments before but we have never won a regular season tourney. Ever. The competition is just too good at the tournaments we choose to play in. And that’s ok. It pays off in the end most seasons.
“But this one was special. We needed this. I would never trivialize the loss of Luke and Sean by asking our team to “win it for them”. In comparison, it’s just not important. Too heartbreaking to even mention a game in the same sentence as those young men.
“But when the night ended, and we sat in the locker room together, we all knew that we wanted to give our best in honor of those two young men that we loved. And we did. And it was special. They would be proud of their brothers. I know I am.
“Yep, it’s just a game. But often times this game builds character and sometimes it simply reveals it. And tonight it revealed it. It doesn’t ease the difficulty or the sadness, but it did give us a collective smile that was so desperately needed.”
The Patriots had reached the finals with a 59-56 win over host Hammon in the semifinals. SWCS had beaten Sentinel 70-42 in the opening round.
In the finals, the Patriots took control of the game in the second quarter, opening a 21-point lead and not letting Lomega get back in the game,
SWCS led 17-10 early in the second quarter and went on a run led by Tim Kramer. Kramer hit a pair of shots and Kelly Young added one in a 6-2 run to open a 23-12 lead.
Treys from Kirk Cole and Tyler Kelly keyed another run that led to a 39-18 halftime lead.
Lomega tried to get a rally going in the third, but trailed 55-36 going into the final frame. The Patriots used three more field goals from Kramer and treys from Will Haas and Grayson Wilbanks to put the game well out of reach,
Haas, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, led the scoring with 20 points. Kramer added 16, Young, who was named to the All-Tournament team, added 12, Bryce Brown had six and Kelly five.
In the semifinals, the Patriots kept the host team from reaching the finals, clipping Hammon 59-56.
It was a back and forth game all night long. The Patriots led by four points, 52-48 starting the fourth and both teams stepped up their defense.
A Sam Webb trey gave the Patriots a 55-50 lead in the first two minutes of the quarter. Hammon closed to 55-52, but a Young field goal opened a five-point lead.
Hammon cut the lead to 57-56 before Webb hit two free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.
Hammon led 15-14 early in the game, but a pair of Wilbanks treys and one each from Young and Haas gave SWCS a 31-30 halftime lead.
Haas and Wilbanks led the scoring with 18, Wilbanks’ all on treys and Haas had five. SWCS had 14 treys in the game. Young added nine points.
In the opening round, the Patriots ran out to a 28-12 first quarter lead and cruised to a 70-42 win over Sentinel.
Haas led the scoring with 18 points, Webb added 15, kirk Cole 12 and Brown eight.