Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
It looked like the Chickasha High School boys basketball team was in for an easy night. Leading by double-digits after the first quarter over Altus, it didn't look like the Bulldogs had any answer for the Fightin' Chicks.
That proved to be far from the truth, as Altus pushed Chickasha to the brink before losing 60-56 in the first round of the Chickasha Basketball Classic on Thursday night.
No. 16 Chickasha avoided getting upset, and improved to 6-2 this season. Altus dropped to 4-4 this year.
Chickasha led by 13 points at the end of the first quarter, and even held a nine-point lead after three periods, but Altus made a game out of it in the fourth quarter.
"We started out playing as good as we can offensively," head coach Bryan Merritt said. "I thought defensively we definitely had a lapse, and I thought depth was a major factor in how we played in the third."
Two Altus 3-pointers in a row pulled the Bulldogs to within two points with about five minutes to play in the game, but Chickasha never let Altus take the lead.
Point guard E.J. Golightly had another huge game for Chickasha, leading the way with 27 points, although 15 of those were in the first quarter and 21 of them came before halftime.
The Altus defenders made it a point to take the ball out of Golightly's hands whenever they could in the second half, at times disrupting the Chickasha offense by doing so.
"Them taking the ball out of E.J.'s hands by trapping him quickly was a good move," Merritt said.
The Chicks got enough help from the supporting cast, with Datious Dufur scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, Joey Sylvester scoring 13 points, and Dakota Goombi adding eight.
"We have a real small margin of error," Merritt said of his team. "I watch some of these other teams, and they've got 12 dudes that can go play. That's just not where we're at."
The win earned Chickasha the chance to play Redemption Christian Academy, a team from Texas that Merritt said will probably be the best team his squad faces this season.
"They've got a 6-foot-9 kid inside, who looks like he's Division I," Merritt said. "I'm glad we won a game. What you want to do in a tournament is win two, so either the one Friday or Saturday has to go down (as a win). [Friday] will tax everything we've got."
The winner from Friday's game will play in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and the loser wil play in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.