WASHINGTON — The third time couldn’t have been more charming for the Ada High School boys basketball team.
After absorbing a 70-41 whipping in their first meeting with Ardmore and a 58-44 loss in a regional championship encounter, the Cougars used a huge second half to tackle the second-ranked Tigers 48-34 Saturday night in a Class 4A Area Tournament consolation championship meeting between the two rivals at Washington High School.
No. 19 Ada improved to 21-7 on the year and is headed to the Class 4A State Tournament, while Ardmore saw its season come to a sudden end at 19-7.
The state pairings were released Sunday afternoon, and the Cougars will take on No. 1 and undefeated Kingfisher at 7 p.m. Thursday at Deer Creek High School in Edmond.
Ada trailed 20-16 at halftime but outscored Ardmore 32-14 in the second half and won going away.
“We talked about before the game the things we had to do differently. We told the guys if we go out and do the same things we’ve done the previous two times, we’ll end up with the same result,” explained first-year Ada head coach Garland Parks.
“It was important that we execute, rebound the basketball and make good decisions offensively. And we did. I thought we played excellent, both offensively and defensively,” he continued.
Ada junior Kobe Burgess, who scored 13 of his game-high 18 points during the Cougars’ big second half, said the change of venue made a big difference. Burgess also had three rebounds, three steals, eight assists and two blocks.
“We’ve gotten better since the first time we played them. Coach Parks set up a game plan, and we stuck to it,” Burgess said. “We played them both times at their place. It made a heckuva difference. It was a different atmosphere tonight, and we got it done.”
Ardmore hung close for nearly all of the third period and got within 27-25 after a long 3-pointer from Quintarrus Cohee.
Ada responded by scoring eight of the last nine points in the quarter. Tanner Gilliam started the 8-1 AHS surge with an old-fashioned 3-point play. Burgess then stole the ball, raced down court and juked an Ardmore defender for a layup that put AHS ahead 30-27 with 54 seconds left in the frame.
Demarco Rucker hit a free throw for the Tiger with 4.5 ticks left, but Ada pushed the ball up the floor and Cody Smith drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 33-28 heading into the fourth frame.
Jamal Clark got a steal and layup to open the fourth quarter for the Tigers, but Burgess answered when he sped down the court and went coast to coast for a layup in traffic that put Ada ahead 35-30 with just over six minutes to play.
Ada freshman Jaxson Robinson buried a 3-pointer off an assist from Burgess to extend the Ada lead to 38-30. After Ardmore big man Berto Sanches muscled his way into the paint for a bucket to trim the Tiger deficit to six, the Cougars put the game away with a big 10-0 burst.
Burgess scored in the paint after using a pump fake to get his defender in the air to start the run. He then found Tanner Gilliam for an easy bucket in the post. Burgess followed that with three free throws, and Smith converted an old-fashioned three-point play after a Burgess assist to cap the run and put Ada on top 48-32 with 2:13 left.
Ada’s ticket to state was officially punched at that point. The chants of “Ardmore no more” from the Cougar supporters began to ring out in the new Washington gymnasium.
“It feels good. I haven’t been there since my freshman year. I’m ready to go back and try to win it,” Burgess said.
Ardmore’s 34 points were a season low.
“Our game plan was to try and contain their big kid and make them beat us from the outside, and they struggled,” Parks said.
Sanchez, the Tigers’ 6-7 post player, was limited to two points by the stingy Ada defense. The Tigers’ offensive struggles weren’t limited to Sanchez. As a team, Ardmore managed just 15-of-52 field goals (28.9 percent), and 2-of-14 3-point attempts (14.3 percent) and the Tigers finished just 2-of-12 from the free-throw line (16.7 percent).
Ada wasn’t great from the charity stripe, hitting just 8-of-20 tries (40 percent), but sank four 3-pointers and the Cougars were 14-of-25 from two-point range (56 percent).
Smith finished with 10 points for Ada, while Gilliam added seven points and four rebounds.
Robinson sank the only two 3-pointers he shot for his six points and also grabbed six rebounds.
Clark led the Tigers with 12 points, three rebounds and six steals. No other Ardmore player scored more than six points.
The Cougars’ area tournament gauntlet to the consolation championship also included wins over an inspired Clinton team and No. 17 Elk City.
Saturday’s victory was extra special for Kylen Cooper, the team’s lone senior.
“I still can’t even believe it. We’ve had a big hill to climb over these past few days. We’ve played some very good teams. It means the world to me and my team to go to state another time,” he said.
Parks said he believes the Cougars can make some noise at state, despite the tough first-round draw.
“We peaked at the right time. At the beginning of the year, I certainly felt like we had the talent to be here, but sometimes it takes a little time for a team to come together,” he said.
“I think we came together at the right time, and the kids are playing for each other and not for themselves. I think the sky’s the limit for this team,” he said.