By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
NORMAN – An impressive season ended in disappointment for the Carl Albert boys.
The Titans returned to the Class 5A state finals Saturday evening but came up short against a familiar foe.
Del City senior Brandon Garrison scored a game-winning layup with 35 seconds left in overtime. The Titans had a few opportunities to score but couldn’t connect in a 37-35 loss at the Lloyd Noble Center.
“We knew it’d be a tough grind out type of game that it was,” said Carl Albert coach Jay Price. “Both teams had chances that they messed up. And both teams had chances that they took advantage of.
I thought we had opportunities late and missed a couple big shots, plays that we could’ve done better. We also made some big time plays to keep ourselves in position to win.”
On a night when points were at a premium, the Titans rallied in the second half to open a double-digit lead. Jordan England hit a 3-pointer and Quincy Hopkins scored to give Carl Albert a 28-18 advantage with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
But that advantage disappeared. Del City closed the gap to four points at the end of the third quarter and took the lead in the fourth. Garrison scored on the offensive glass to give Del City a 33-31 lead midway through the fourth.
“You hope you can hold onto a lead like that but you know the other team is going to make a run,” Price said. “We made some mistakes and let them back in.”
England tied the game with two free throws with 2:22 to play. Del City held the ball for nearly the final minute to set up for a final shot, but Garrison’s jumper was off the mark.
In overtime, Hopkins started the scoring with a basket, but Del City’s Damraious Vealy answered with a bucket on the other end. Garrison later hit the go-ahead basket off a pass from Vealy. The Titans got a couple of offensive possessions but couldn’t get a shot to fall. Hopkins missed from the corner, and England later pushed the ball up the floor for a floater in the lane that was off the mark. England grabbed the rebound and tried again but missed.
Price unsuccessfully argued that England was fouled on the play.
“I thought we probably got fouled on that last play and should’ve been at least shooting free throws, but sometimes you don’t get those calls and we didn’t tonight,” Price said. “I’m really proud of my kids and wouldn’t want to be with any other group. It’s tough to lose that way, but someone has to lose and unfortunately it was us tonight.”
Price expected a defensive battle. Both teams barely shot over 30% from the floor. Del City finished with four blocks and eight steals, while Carl Albert had six blocks and four steals.
“We knew what type of game it’d be with their defense and our defense,” Price said. “We knew it’d be whoever could make a play at the end.”
Garrison led all scorers with 17 points and had 16 rebounds and four blocks.
England was the leader for the Titans with 15 points and eight rebounds and three blocks.
The Eagles have been a thorn in the Titans’ side for several years. Del City has won seven straight meetings in the series including two in the state tournament.
Carl Albert reached the 5A finals with wins over Tahlequah and Holland Hall in the first two rounds.
Carl Albert 62, Tahlequah 50
Ryan Reynolds had the hot hand for the Titans against Tahlequah on Wednesday. The junior scored 22 points and was 6-of-11 from 3-point range in a 62-50 quarterfinal win at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Hopkins finished with 15 points and Jayden Mott added 11 in the victory.
Carl Albert led 35-22 at halftime.
Hayden Smith had 19 points and 17 rebounds for Tahlequah (14-12).
Carl Albert 51, Holland Hall 39
The Titans used a strong defensive performance to sink Holland Hall 51-39 in the semifinals and advance to the 5A finals for the second time in the past three years.
“It’s so cool because you know the work that these kids have put in and last year we made it to the semifinals and you come back and talk to the kids about taking advantage of their next opportunity and we were able to,” Price said. “We played a great game and it’s a thrill to be able to play in the championship.”
Hopkins led the Titans with 13 points and five steals and England added 10 points.
After a tight first half, Carl Albert found some separation in the third. Ta’Shawn James hit a basket late in the quarter for a 37-29 lead.
That lead grew to double digits early in the fourth, before Holland Hall rallied. Jadon Cool scored a basket and one to make it a 41-37 score midway through the fourth. Carl Albert answered with a 10-2 run to close out the game.
The Dutch struggled offensively as they hit 15.8% (3-of-19) from 3-point range and 41% (16-of-39) from the field. They also turned the ball over 13 times.
“I thought defensively we did a great job and were able to keep them at bay a bit and make it tough for them to score,” Price said. “I felt like that was the key for us.”
Carl Albert shot 50% (18-of-36) from the field and scored 12 points off turnovers.