Ada — Ada senior guard Walker Whitworth heated up and junior swingman Cory Kilby came back from a third-quarter injury to push the Cougars ever so close to victory in Saturday night’s East Central Oklahoma Classic finals at the Cougar Activity Center.
But Sapulpa senior guard Ben Johnson took the Chieftains on his shoulders in the fourth quarter, propelling them to a thrilling 58-54 victory over the battling Cougars.
Whitworth would finish the night with 18 points. Kilby added 12 to go with 11 rebounds and several blocked shots.
The Cougars fought hard throughout the contest and pushed the Class 6A Chieftains to the limit. But superior Sapulpa foul shooting in the final frame would keep the Cougars at bay.
“I’m extremely proud of this group,” Cougar coach Ron Anderson said. “This is the first time since 2001 Ada has reached the final game, and that was the year they also reached the state title game. These guys are working so well together now, and they are just going to get better. This is a special team.”
Ada came out in a switching zone defense that seemed to flummox the Chieftains during the opening quarter. The Cougars held the tall, quick Chieftains to just 10 points in the first, while Ada post David Forbes canned a couple of 3-pointers to guide Ada to a 17-10 lead.
But the Chieftains played big and athletic all night. Senior guard Sam Gottsch found his rhythm for three threes in the second quarter, and tournament MVP Ben Johnson hit two quick threes at the end of the half to drive a 31-27 Sapulpa lead.
The second quarter proved the difference, as the Chieftains maintained their four-point advantage through to the final horn.
Whitworth took the Cougars on his back in the third. The Cougar shooting guard scored on pull-up 3-pointers, baseline drives and dribbled drives down the lane. Sapulpa couldn’t stop the Ada senior during the quarter, but seniors Austin Rush and Sean Robison got hot to keep the Chieftains on top.
Kilby left the game at 1:45 in the third with an ankle injury, but the star junior would return at 7:10 of the fourth.
Ada sixth man Tryce Prince played his best game of the season, scoring six crucial points on floating jumpers and playing aggressive defense that locked down whatever Sapulpa man he happened to be guarding.
But Johnson got hot, and Robison continued his good inside play to secure the 58-54 Chieftain win.
Ada guard Jamal Henderson had another quality start with eight points and limited turnovers. The quick Henderson took advantage of openings down the lane to beat the Chieftain defenders on several drives. Sophomore guard Jermaine Lawson also played well, as Ada successfully limited turnovers.
“Our effort is as good as it’s been all year,” Anderson said. “I feel like we didn’t really lose this game. We just ran out of time.”
Whitworth and Kilby were named to the ECOC all-tournament team.