Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
SAPULPA, Okla. —
The Chickasha High School boys basketball team held on for yet another upset, beating No. 3 Southeast on Thursday night.
The Fightin’ Chicks led 52-46 with 1:27 left in the game, and got the stops they needed for a 52-50 victory in the state quarterfinals.
“I’m so proud of my team,” head coach Bryan Merritt said. “That’s the biggest win I’ve seen in my 16 years of coaching. We came up here, and every coach I talked to said they were the most athletic team in the tournament.
“The kids did it, and I don’t know how they did it, and they deserve to be going to the semifinals,” he said.
Many Southeast players walked off the court after the game without shaking hands, but Chickasha’s players weren’t worried about that as they flooded into the stands to celebrate with the busload of students who came to the game.
“It’s a great feeling,” E.J. Golightly said. “It’s great seeing all these people come out and support us, knowing they’ve got school, still coming all the way out here.”
It was a fast-paced game from the start, although neither team was shooting well from the beginning. Southeast played a trapping full-court man press, which gave Chickasha trouble at times.
Joey Sylvester and Dakota Goombi were the main offensive options for the Fightin’ Chicks in the first half, as E.J. Golightly struggled to get shots off down low. Goombi and Sylvester scored eight points each in the first half, and Golightly scored five.
Chickasha led by as many as eight points right before the end of the first quarter, but Southeast closed out the first half on a 9-2 run to take a 27-25 halftime lead.
The Chicks came out sloppy in the third quarter, turning the ball over and going down as many as five points. The team didn’t lose its composure during the struggles, and Golightly credited that to coaching.
“We always are prepared from Coach Merritt,” Golightly said. “We’re always in tight games, so we’ve learned to just play through whatever happens.”
The game was tied at 45 with 2:59 to play, when Chickasha got some turnovers and layups to get a big enough lead to hold on to for the remainder of the game.
Golightly and Sylvester scored 19 points each, both hitting big contested shots in the final minutes, and Goombi ended the game with 10 points.
Datious Dufur had the task of being the primary defender on 6-foot 7-inch Rashawn Thomas of Southeast, and held the big man to 10 points.
“Tonight he goes against probably the best, or the second best, other than Steven Clark, kid in the state of Oklahoma, and just shut him down,” Merritt said.
Chickasha will play Bishop McGuinness at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Mabee Center in Tulsa in the semifinals. Bishop McGuinness is the No. 1 team in class 5A.
“Whatever happens tomorrow, I couldn’t be more proud of the team,” Merritt said.