By Chuck Reherman
WEATHERFORD – Southwest Covenant had to take the long road, but the Patriots did what they sat out to do two weeks ago.
Punch their ticket to the ‘Big Dance.’
Southwest Covenant earned a spot in the class A State Basketball Championships with a 38-26 win over No. 9 ranked Arapaho-Butler Monday night at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.
The Patriots, 17-8, had to win six games to get to the state tournament after losing to Vici in the district finals. SWCS won all three regional games, including a revenge win over Vici, to advance to the area tournament.
SWCS upset No. 6 ranked Okarche, 61-53, in the first round of area, then posted a 76-62 win over Sterling in the consolation semifinals.
Arapaho had lost to Fort Cobb-Broxton in the winners bracket final and brought a 22-7 into the consolation finals.
It was a game that saw both teams feeling the pressure early on. SWCS, a good three-point shooting team, missed on all but two of them in the game and both of those came in the second half.
“Our guys were definitely feeling the pressure from the magnitude of the game,” SWCS head coach Kevin Cobbs said. “But, Arapaho was really good defensively, so it was part that, part pressure and part we didn’t shoot the ball as well as we have.
“And, going 12 for 24 from the free throw line was an indication of the pressure we were feeling,” he said. “But, executing and getting rebounds late in the game was key for us. We had been shooting the ball pretty well going into the game, we just couldn’t get much going from the three-point line, so we found other ways to win.”
The game was tied 13-13 going into the second half and when SWCS’ Kelly Young went down with an ankle injury early in the third quarter, it hampered the Patriots’ three-point shooting. Young and Will Haas are the two leading three-point shooters for the Patriots.
With Young out, the Patriots stepped up their defensive play. SWCS held Arapaho to only three points in the third quarter and used a key trey from Sam Webb to open a 21-13 lead.
Haas stepped to the front in the fourth quarter. Haas and Webb hit field goals and then Haas and Kirk Cole hit free throws to keep the lead at eight.
Arapaho made a run and cut the lead to two with just over two minutes remaining. Cole sank a trey to push the lead to six, 32-26. SWCS did not give up another point and put the game away with free throws.
“That was heartbreaking to lose Kelly to the ankle injury,” Cobb said. “He has played so well since Christmas.
“Sam hit a big three for us in the third and Kirk’s three was huge with two minutes remaining,” he added. “Those were the only two three point shots we hit, but they came at the right times for us.”
Haas led the SWCS scoring with 21 points. Webb and Cole added five points each.
In the consolation semifinals, the Patriots got those shots to fall and posted a 76-62 win over Sterling.
SWCS hit 27 of their shots from the field, including five treys and went 17 of 29 from the free throw line. Sterling hit 23 shots from the floor (only two treys) and were 14 of 18 from the line.
The Patriots came out firing. Haas opened the game with a trey and keyed an 12-4 run to open the game. Young, who had a trey in that opening run, added a second and a field goal that sent SWCS to a 22-10 lead.
Haas hit a second trey and Tyler Kelly added one that sent the Patriots to a 38-25 halftime lead. SWCS went more to the inside game in the third quarter as Tim Kramer scored seven points and Bryce Brown added four to lead 51-37 with eight minutes remaining.
Sterling did try to make a run at the Patriots. Kelly hit three shots from the floor and late in the game, SHS was forced to foul. Haas connected on seven of eight shots from the free throw line down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
Haas and Webb led the scoring with 15 points each, Young added 12, Kramer and Kelly 11 and Brown six.
The Patriots opened the area tournament with No. 6 ranked Okarche and SWCS beat the Warriors for the second time this season, 61-53. SWCS had beaten the Warriors 68-67 in the Coyle Tournament earlier in the year.
Southwest Covenant trailed by three, 31-28, going into the second half and Young gave the Patriots the spark they needed for the comeback.
After Haas hit four free throws to open the half, Young connected on three straight treys and added a field goal that put the Patriots in front 43-40.
Okarche was forced to foul in the fourth quarter and SWCS responded by sinking 14 of 17 from the line. After a Cole field goal, SWCS hit five of six free throws for a 50-46 lead.
Haas hit the second and last field goal of the quarter, who finished the game at the line, hitting nine of 11.
It was a back and forth game early on. A field goal, trey and three free throws from Haas and a basket and trey from Young gave the Patriots a 17-16 lead. Okarche led 31-28 at halftime.
Haas led ther Patriots with 18 points, Young added 16 and Cole, Grayson Wilbanks and Webb all had six.
By Chuck Reherman