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Carl Albert boys top El Reno for return to state

The Carl Albert boys basketball team advanced to the Class 5A state tournament with a win over El Reno Saturday night in the area consolation finals. Photo by Jay Wiggins for the Midwest City Beacon

By Jacob Sturm
Midwest City Beacon

PIEDMONT – It took two attempts, but Carl Albert’s boys basketball team will be playing in the Class 5A State Tournament following results from a pair of trips to Piedmont High School on Friday and Saturday.

The Titans, who advanced to the winner’s bracket of the area tournament last week, had the luxury of playing with some margin in their pursuit of a 5A State Tournament birth and ended up needing that margin to advance.

On Friday, Carl Albert faced Crossings Christian in a win-and-in matchup between area tournament winners. Crossings Christian fielded two interior threats, forcing a barrage of 3-point attempts from the Titans that did not fall when they were needed.

Jay Price, Carl Albert’s coach, indicated the size of Crossings Christian proved the difference in a 57-45 defeat.

“We knew they would zone us a lot of the game,” Price said. “To try to get to the interior, you’ve got to either shoot it right in the middle of the lane, or you’ve got to shoot it from the 3-line. We shoot it better than that normally… but we didn’t tonight.”

The Titans were in a competitive game at halftime (22-18 Crossings at half) before a 14-3 spurt to start the third quarter put Carl Albert behind the metaphorical eight ball the rest of the way.

That needed margin offered a second chance on Saturday, where Carl Albert returned to Piedmont and faced El Reno.

Little separated the sides approaching halftime, but that changed in the closing moments with a few consecutive Titans’ stops and fast break opportunities put some distance between the teams.

“When you can do that, and know you’re going into the locker room with a little bit of a lead and a little bit of momentum, that allows you to come back out with that kind of energy that you need in the second half,” Price said. “And then we did, and then we kind of went into a lull and they (El Reno) made some big shots… Just to try and contain them for 32 minutes is tough, but I’m proud of our guys. They did what we needed to and were able to finish it off.”

Down the stretch, the Titans’ defense forced El Reno into tough shots and held the Indians scoreless for the first 4:30 of the final quarter. In that same time, the lead grew to 48-40 and remained comfortable the rest of the way.

Jayden Hopkins led the way for the Titans with 16 points against El Reno, with 12 of those coming in the opening half to steady the ship as the team eased into the game.

“I knew I was going to have to have a big performance for us to carry out the win because El Reno is a good team defensively and offensively,” Hopkins said.

He also said the late defensive intensity from Carl Albert shows the poise the team has ahead of the state tournament.
Carl Albert would win 58-49 and advance to the state tournament.

“It’s something you don’t ever take for granted,” Price said. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to go several times, but you just don’t take it for granted because you’ve got a new set of kids (and) some of them haven’t been and you want to give them an opportunity to do it. So, it’s an honor. We’re thrilled to get to be a part of it again, and hopefully we can make some noise next week and play well.”

Carl Albert faces Holland Hall at noon Thursday at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.

Carl Albert’s Jayden Hopkins goes up for a layup against El Reno Saturday evening in the Class 5A Area consolation championship at Piedmont High School. Photo by Jay Wiggins for the Midwest City Beacon


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