Titans hold off late rally to advance to state tourney
By Jacob Sturm
Midwest City Beacon
EDMOND – Quincy Hopkins’ shooting stroke had been pure all night, and that became abundantly clear when Carl Albert needed it the most.
In a thrilling 62-56 win against Southeast High School, Hopkins’ production seemed to be the well the Titans needed to get across the finish line with a victory Friday night in the Class 5A Area championship at Edmond North High School.
Carl Albert opened the game with a purpose, pressing the ball handler into forced mistakes and leading to multiple fastbreak layups in the first quarter to open a 15-7 lead. Then, a strong second quarter start pulled the Titans ahead 32-14 before SEHS really settled down and began chipping away, reducing the gap to 32-21 at halftime.
Combine the slow finish to the half with a stunning third quarter run from SEHS, and a once comfortable lead had turned into a brief deficit by the early stage of the final period. Carl Albert coach
Jay Price gave credit to the Titans effort responding to the SEHS run in the third quarter.
“In these types of games when you get this far in the playoffs, it’s going to be a game of runs,” Price said. “Defensively, I knew we could do a great job and slow them down, but I knew there was going to be a time they were going to make some runs. Obviously they took the lead there at one time and we came right back. I was really proud at how our kids responded to that. We made the run that mattered at the end and that’s what ended up being the difference for us.”
That response started with good shot selection, an area where Hopkins thrived. Most of the fourth quarter, Hopkins was making plays in the midrange (his go-to shot), including jumpers and strong finishes around the rim that changed the momentum on multiple occasions and quieted the raucous SEHS crowd.
Hopkins said the fourth quarter success really came from the group trying to find a spark following the lull in the third.
“That fourth quarter was definitely a big confidence boost especially going to State,” Hopkins said. “We kind of went into a little bit of a lull, so we needed that spark on offense. So, I just tried to get us going with it.”
Hopkins scored 28 points on the night, and 12 of those came in the clutch as Carl Albert leaned on the hot hand in closing time. It was Hopkins’ jumper that drew praise from Price.
“With their defense, they really stretch the floor and get out far and wide, and they leave the lane open for some dribble drive stuff,” Price said. “He’s so powerful. When he gets his head and shoulders down, he’s really hard to stop. His pull-up jumper, he struggled with it for a little bit a few weeks ago, but he’s been working on it. Man, was it sweet tonight.”
Ta’Shawn James finished with 10 points and Jordan England and Jayden Mott added eight apiece.
The Titans now head to the 5A state tournament riding momentum from the win over Southeast. Carl Albert faces Tahlequah in the first round of the state tournament. The game is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman. The winner will face Holland Hall or El Reno on Friday.
Price said the team has talked about responding to the challenge in practice, and got the chance to put it into action Friday.
“It wasn’t a surprise necessarily because we talk about it in practice and worked on it,” Price said. “We know in big time games, that’s going to happen. You’ve got to respond or you lose, and our kids really stepped up. I think they learned a lot from last year’s experiences in the playoffs, and being able to respond to it tonight, I’m really proud of them.”