The Ada High boys basketball team appeared on the brink of blowing out Harrah during an emotionally charged meeting Friday night inside the Cougar Activity Center.
However, the Panthers would make a late comeback bid before Ada would turn back Harrah in a 61-56 victory.
The Cougars, ranked No. 19 in Class 4A, have now won seven of their last nine games to improve to 12-6 on the season, while Harrah left town at 8-10.
“Harrah’s a tough team. They’re a lot tougher than their record indicates. They play hard and don’t give up,” said Ada head coach Garland Parks.
The game got physical and chippy in the second half and stayed that way until the end. At the center of the battle were Ada senior Kylen Cooper and Harrah playmaker Brett Cunningham, who banged on each other in the paint throughout.
“There was some intensity with the guys going at each other and being physical. It just happens sometimes. We just have to keep our heads and focus on winning the basketball game and not get caught up in all that other stuff,” Parks said.
Cunningham singlehandedly kept his team in the contest, finishing with a game-high 25 points to go with nine rebounds. Cunningham finished 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
Cooper was up to the task. He scored a career-high 24 points and had five rebounds and three steals.
“He’s doing a lot of good things for us. He helps us in a lot of areas, defensively, offensively ... He takes care of the basketball, he makes good decisions for the most part,” Parks said of his lone senior. “He’s a kid that’s not starting, but he’s finishing every game.”
Cooper scored on a fast-break layup off a nice pass from Trey Havens at the 4:42 mark of the fourth quarter to put Ada on top 56-42. Harrah began its rally attempt after that.
Nolan Fox, who had a few physical encounters with Ada’s Kobe Burgess, buried two 3-pointers in a 12-2 Harrah surge that got the Panthers within 58-54 with 1:38 to play. Fox finished with 11 points.
Cooper would sink one free throw, and Cody Smith added two more to put Ada ahead 61-54 with 23.4 seconds remaining and keep Harrah at bay.
The game went back and forth throughout the first half. The score was knotted at 13-13 after the first quarter, and there were five lead changes and two ties in the second period before Ada took a slim 27-25 lead at the break.
Cooper scored 13 points in a 21-8 Ada third-quarter surge that put the home team on top 48-33 heading into the fourth period.
Ada freshman Jaxson Robinson buried 4-of-4 3-point shots, finished with 14 points, and also had five rebounds and three steals. No other AHS player hit double digits.
Parks said some of his players struggled offensively, thanks to a stingy zone defense employed by Harrah.
“They sat in that zone most of the game, and that’s something we haven’t seen a lot. That’s probably only the second team we’ve seen all year that’s sat in a zone for the majority of the game. (Playing against a zone defense) is something we need to get better at,” he said. “It’s good to see that. That gives me an option to be a better coach and for us to be a better team.”
Sam Godwin added seven points for Ada, all in the first half.
Ada had a rough night at the free-throw line, hitting just nine if 19 tries.
The Cougars travel to McAlester tonight for a matchup with the rival Buffaloes before heading to Durant Friday night.