Brandon Shumway

Chickasha guard Brandon Shumway drives baseline against Anadarko during Friday night's game at the Activity Center.

Adam Troxtell

Chickasha Head Coach Wes Pulliam and Anadarko Head Coach Doug Shumpert are very close.

The two have been friends since long before they began their current jobs, each taking victory or defeat against the other humbly and in stride. This year, there's only room for one of their teams in the Class 4A State semifinals.

Exactly whose team will be there is decided on Thursday.

"Obviously you know they're kids, you know what they do, and of course Doug and I are good friends," Pulliam said. "But because of all of those same reasons, it makes it a little harder. You're playing for higher stakes than just bragging rights. During the year, we split with them, so I'm kind of calling this the rubber match."

No. 7 Chickasha tips off against No. 6 Anadarko in the boys' state quarterfinal round at 2 p.m. in Deer Creek. The Fightin' Chicks bested the then fourth-ranked Warriors at home back in December, 59-57, when they were ranked 10th. 

In the reverse game in February, Anadarko leveled the score with a 47-44 win as part of an 18-game victorious streak. Thursday's game between such evenly-matched teams at a neutral site is bound to be a classic.

"If it's anybody, I would want to play them just because of the atmosphere," Chickasha senior Brandon Shumway said. "I like the atmosphere that surrounds playing them, plus we know a little bit about them."

It'll be the first time since 2013 that the Chickasha boys have played at state. That year, the Fightin' Chicks fell just short of the final in Class 5A.

Shumway was a freshman at the time, but he remembers the journey well.

"When I was a freshman and saw them go to state, it put a picture in my head that that's what I want to do," he said. "It put this feeling in my stomach that, when I'm ready to do that, it's the feeling I want to have. You can just tell it was a great feeling."

Some of that emotion burst from the Chickasha bench on Friday, when senior Braeden Blakes sank a last-second shot to win the Area I championship over Victory Christian. Excitement had its place, but Pulliam said this week has been all about making it count for something at the next stage following a Sunday get-together for photos and smiles.

"At the end of the meeting I told them to enjoy it, but you'll regret it if you don't invest yourself this week," Pulliam said. "So, at 2 o'clock, it's not any different. We're not playing for anything in practice except to get better every day. That's what we want our DNA to be."

A clear example of this can be found in senior Colton Christian. Since Jan. 21, the first game of the Newcastle tournament, he has averaged 14.13 points per game.

Compare that to the first 10 games of the season since Dec. 1, when Christian averaged seven points per game. Over time, the Fightin' Chicks have begun including more and more players in a now high-powered offense that is averaging 64.3 points per game. 

Chickasha's surge into the playoffs has thrown another factor into the competitive field. Pulliam said he doesn't think anyone can predict with any accuracy who will be standing in 4A when all is said and done on Saturday.

"There's probably two teams higher than everybody else, but I don't think there's anybody who can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that they know who's going to win the state tournament," Pulliam said. "There's no easy outs."

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