Slow start no problem for Del City boys
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
MUSTANG – Slow starts are nothing new for the Del City boys.
But neither are strong finishes.
The Eagles (18-6) pulled off another escape act Friday night as they rallied from 17 points down at halftime for 53-45 win against El Reno in the Class 5A Area finals.
“They hit us in the mouth and we didn’t wake up until halftime,” said coach Lenny Hatchett. “We’ve been in this situation before, but we need to learn that we can’t come out and play like that. We have to come out and play hard at the jump. Our guys have to stick together and they did that in the second half. I was really proud of them.”
El Reno (18-7) took control early with perimeter shooting and suffocating defense. The Indians hit five 3-pointers in the first half and bottled up Del City big man Brandon Garrison with double and triple teams.
After falling behind early, the Eagles tightened their perimeter defense and slowly chipped away at the deficit. Percy Green gave Del City the lead with back-to-back layups midway through the fourth quarter.
“Everyone makes runs and we were going to make ours sooner or later, so we had to play defense and rebound the ball,” said senior guard Damarious Vealy. “They had two good shooters and we had to run them off the line.”
Del City held El Reno to seven points in the second half.
The Indians doubled up the Eagles in the first half. They led 15-7 at the end of the first and 35-18 at halftime. Matthew Tofpi hit three 3-pointers and Carter RomanNose added a pair. RomanNose hit his final one at the buzzer in the first half, giving El Reno a commanding 17-point advantage.
A different Del City team came out of the locker room in the second half. They got help offensively from several players. Jaedon Foreman, Percy Green, Jamouri McCalister and Vealy each had big shots in the third, as they trimmed the deficit to 38-34.
Del City opened the fourth with back-to-back 3s from Vealy and Foreman to take the lead. El Reno answered at the other end, tying the game at 40-40. The Eagles took control for good with a pair of layups from Green and a 44-40 lead.
The Eagles allowed only five points the rest of the night for the 53-45 win.
“We just had to keep fighting in the third and fourth quarters,” Vealy said. “We came out and hit some big shots and got help from our bench.”
With the Area championship, the Eagles clinched their seventh consecutive state tournament appearance. Del City will face Tulsa Edison Prep in the first round at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman. The winner will face Tulsa Memorial or Southeast in the semifinals on Friday.
The Eagles have advanced to the state finals the past three seasons. The Eagles won the state title in 2021 and finished state runner-up in 2019 and 2022. The 2020 state tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.