January 27, 2014

Minco fights through late OCA surge to claim title

Adam Troxtell
The Express-Star


Last year’s tournament boys’ runner-up Minco went one better this time around, lifting the title with a 71-49 win over Oklahoma Christian Academy.

Four players scored in double-digits for the Bulldogs, with Asher Baade and Blake Schneberger leading the charge on 21 points each. The win was in spite of Caleb Kingsley’s efforts for the Eagles. His 30 points just about brought OCA back into the game from a huge deficit.

"We played really well down the stretch; made free throws, blocked out, and got rebounds," head coach Robert Duvall said about his Minco's team ability to close the game out. "This is my 19th go at this thing, and it seems like whoever wins Grady County, it's a big stepping stone to the playoffs."

The Bulldogs always looked like a team capable of winning it. A mix of athleticism, size and consistent shooting made their week in Amber something to remember going forward. They showed the confidence to score from almost any angle. But the fourth-seed Eagles punched above their weight to get into the final by beating top-seed Alex, and they nearly pulled off one of the biggest comeback's in tournament history.

The first quarter was all Nathaniel Garner. He scored 12 of OCA’s 17 points, which helped them to an early lead. Kingsley hit two back-to-back three pointers to put the Eagles on a 10-2 run after a back-and-forth beginning that made this look like it would be a game of trading punches.

Then Minco took over. Hunter Jones popped up on the baseline for a few big buckets from midrange to score six points in the second quarter, and later had 18 for the night. Schneberger got going as halftime loomed to help the Bulldogs take the lead back. Minco outscored OCA 18-7 in the second quarter as the Bulldogs surged back, and they weren't done.

Baade and Schneberger combined for 10 points to start the third quarter for Minco and take the lead to 16. A three from Jones piled on the points, as the Eagles struggled defensively. They scored 11 on one end, but the Bulldogs doubled them up on the other to exit the fourth quarter 53-35 ahead.

Then came the rejuvenated Eagles that had risen in the previous two games to get to this point. Kingsley showed his range was just about everywhere when he started hitting quarter-court shots as if he’d been born out there. From a deficit of more than 20 points, OCA got back within nine to set up a nervous few minutes. This time, however, the gap was just too big.

"[Kingsley] can shoot the basketball; he really pulled a couple out of his sock there," a relieved Duvall said. "These kids, they fight from start to finish. We watched them; they came back and won twice, and I told them they've got some more to go."

The big win gives Minco their second Grady County title in three years.