CHATTANOOGA So often the Southwest Shootout at Chattanooga produces memorable basketball games. Thursday night was no different as both girls' semifinals games were hotly contested and produced at least one upset. On the other side, the boys games were blowouts.
They all had one thing in common though: 3-pointers and lots of them.
Saturday's finals are set with the girls title being played for by Chattanooga and Indiahoma at 6:20 p.m. Chattanooga boys are taking on XXXXXX in the boys finals at approximately 7:40 p.m.
Little tops big There is a recipe for a small basketball team to defeat a larger team: run and knock down 3-pointers.
In a match-up of ranked Class A teams, the smaller No. 15 Chattanooga nailed eight triples on its way to a 62-51 win over No. 5 Sterling to reach the finals.
It was revenge for a game a few weeks ago that Sterling won by two with a furious second-half comeback.
"We were ahead by 12 in the third quarter at their place, but got foul in trouble and they're hard to defend because they're so athletic," Chatty head coach Jeff Mahoney said. "We got tired and then they beat us with two free throws with .7 on the clock. We figure we'll play them three or four more times, so it was just another ball game tonight. We competed hard and did some good things."
Each team was dealing with a long lay-off due to the winter weather and it seemed to wreak havoc on each team's conditioning, but Chatty (5-3) had a little more in the tank and was able to stave off each run Sterling made.
Area Class A powers meet tonight in state semifinals
Apache junior Jordan Littrell struggled finding a reason for the distinct theme that has bolstered his team during its run through this year's Class A playoffs.
The cornerback can only say it's been exciting how the Warriors have accounted for more turnovers than an IHOP staff at a pancake breakfast. Apache has 12 takeaways to its name through three playoff games, bolstered by an eye-popping six that came in the first half of a first-round win at Fairview.
Littrell has five total to his name four interceptions, plus a forced-and-recovered fumble.
"It's just kind of happened," Littrell said of the flurry of turnovers. "We just play our cover-3 defense and play physical football. It gets us all hyped; gets us jacked and ready to get more."
If this defense continues its recent ways at 7 p.m. tonight against No. 2 Hollis (12-0) inside Ulrich Stadium in Cache, Apache (11-2) could find itself in next week's state finals. It's a highly anticipated rematch from earlier in the year, when Hollis won a 34-14 home contest in District A-2 action.
Littrell's play on both sides of the ball has much to do with Apache's surge. Always a threat on offense the 6-2, 180-pound running back has two touchdowns this postseason Littrell stepped up after being asked to take repetitions at cornerback.
"Jordan, I couldn't be happier (with)," said Apache head coach Larry McDaniel, whose team is looking for its first title-game appearance since 2000. "The last three or four games it seems like he's found himself on both sides of the ball, as far as running the ball with authority, catching the ball well. The biggest pleasant surprise is when we needed him to rep in at corner on defense, he's coming up with big turnovers, big tackles and doing everything we wanted him to do.
We appreciate all of the pats on the back we got this week for our second perfect week of picking games in the last three, but we're not going to rest on success. No, we're back to give you a fourth playoff edition of our high school picks.
We're getting dangerously close to the end with just nine days of the high school football season remaining. There are four teams still alive in the area and two of them are playing for the right to go to the Class A title game.
District A-3 has been touted in this space all year as the best district in Class A and one of the best in the state regardless of class. Hollis, Apache and Thomas were all in our Top 10 every week this season and they all finished 11th or better in the final poll.
What's happening now? Hollis and Apache are playing each other tomorrow at Cache at 7 p.m. for entrance to the title game against the winner of Friday's Ringling-Talihina contest.
Apache traveled to Hollis in Week 9 only to be handed a 34-14 loss. In the four games since then, Apache has given up just 35 points while going on a turnover binge that is probably unsustainable. In three playoff games, Apache's defense has caused 14 turnovers. You read that correctly.
Apache has only lost to Thomas and Hollis this season and no doubt the Warriors want that Thomas game back. Apache lost by 11 in a game that started around 10 p.m. due to lightning. At least the Warriors get another shot at Hollis.
We're just not sure how successful that second attempt is going to be. Apache does have the distinction of holding Hollis to its smallest margin of victory this season, but the Warriors turned the ball over five times and that proved to be too much for them to overcome.
On the other side, Hollis has just been crushing each opponent that has stepped onto the field. The Tigers have won every game by 20 or more points and have given up just 21 points in three playoff games. Last week they traveled nearly 270 miles to Kiefer and blew the doors off the Trojans, 41-7.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been one of the top duos in the NBA since 2008. They might have needed a little extra time to recapture their dynamic form this season following Westbrook's two offseason knee surgeries, but they've let it be known lately that they're back and better than ever. That was never more evident than on Sunday night when the Thunder (15-4) raced past Indiana, the team with the best record in the league. Durant and Westbrook combined for 62 points and 18 assists in the 118-94 dismantling of the Pacers, serving notice to the league that Oklahoma City fully expects to return to the NBA Finals. "They've been good for a lot of years," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "And then, we also have to still look at Russell as this is part of the process. ... He just finished up his first month of playing. So, he's feeling much more comfortable out there, and he's doing a great job." Westbrook has started to round into All-Star form this month, showing that he's fully recovered from the right knee injury that left him on the bench for the Thunder's second-round exit from the playoffs against Memphis last season.
Depending on who you encounter, the state college football teams playing against SEC foes in their respective bowls is either a dream come true or a nightmare. For the state's largest newspaper, it's a dream. The Oklahoman's pre-season college football section was all about relating the Big 12 to the SEC and figuring out how the SEC became the best conference and what the Big 12 can do to get there. So the staff probably, rightfully so, feels prophetic. For Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, it's a nightmare. On at least three occasions since May, Stoops has said various disparaging comments against the Southeastern Conference. His comments have implied that the bottom half of the SEC isn't good and that SEC defenses aren't all that they are cracked up to be. Now he gets to see at least how correct he is about that second comment since he faces SEC-whale Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 2. The two-time defending champion Crimson Tide is a Top-5 defense in points allowed, yards against and passing yards against. It's also ninth in rushing yards against.
Whether they be in college or high school, athletes wait with great anticipation for their senior seasons to inch closer and closer. Of course, it's their last go-round in competitive sports. A bittersweet finale. But it is a cherished campaign, where skills hit peak form in terms of physical and mental development, and often, it's the most productive time period of an athletic career. For Apache starting cornerback J.D. Wilcox, this season was almost over before it started. The senior wasn't sure if he would play high school football again after breaking his right fibula during Week 3 at Crossings Christian. "I hope I'd come back at the end of the season maybe," Wilcox said last week. "We took it one step at a time. First I was in a cast, then a walking boot… Then after that we just had to see how it went." Here's how it went: Wilcox sat out eight straight games, then Apache (11-2) won a close game at Fairview in the first round of the Class A playoffs, buying Wilcox enough time play some minutes at receiver and corner when the Warriors upset No. 8 Minco in the second round.
NORMAN (AP) Tricia Liston scored a season-high 23 points and No. 2 Duke gave coach Joanne P. McCallie her 500th career win, beating No. 17 Oklahoma 94-85 on Sunday. Alexis Jones added 20 points and six assists and Haley Peters scored 18 points for Duke, which is 10-0 for the third time in the last four seasons and the seventh time in the program's history. The Blue Devils, who are unbeaten in three games this season against ranked foes, face No. 1 Connecticut and No. 5 Kentucky before the end of the month. McCallie, who previously coached at Maine and Michigan State, became the 30th active NCAA Division I coach to reach the 500-win mark. The win was her 175th in seven seasons at Duke. Aaryn Ellenberg scored a season-high 28 points and Morgan Hook added a season-high 24 points for Oklahoma (6-3), which lost to a top-five team for the second time this season. The Sooners fell in overtime to No. 5 Louisville on Nov. 17. Liston made only one 3-pointer in Duke's previous two games wins against Kansas and No. 16 Purdue but had three before halftime and finished the game 5 of 10 from behind the arc, helping her team finish 9 of 21 (42.9 percent). The game was the first between Duke and Oklahoma since the 2002 national semifinals, which Oklahoma won before falling to Connecticut in the title game. Duke was the highest-ranked nonconference foe for the Sooners since No. 1 Connecticut on Feb. 15, 2010.
WASHINGTON (AP) Playing a half-hour from its Fairfax, Va. campus, George Mason figured to have a home-court advantage Sunday against Oklahoma in the BB&T Classic. But on a dreary, cold, snowy, day in Washington, the game was played in front of a sparse, listless crowd. The atmosphere did little, however, to dim the spirits of the Sooners. Led by Cameron Clark and propelled by an overwhelming rebounding advantage, Oklahoma rolled to an 81-66 victory in its first appearance in the event. Clark scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, helping Oklahoma to a 51-29 rebounding edge. Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler scored 13 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Buddy Hield added 12 points and 10 boards. In winning its fourth straight game, Oklahoma (8-1) made only 1 of 12 attempts from beyond the arc and committed 19 turnovers. But the Sooners compensated with 58.3 percent marksmanship from the field and huge advantages on points in the paint, 50-20, and on fast-break points, 12-0. "One of our goals going into every game is to out-rebound the every team," Spangler said. "If you do, you get easy points."
Another year, another season that ended in the semifinals for the MacArthur Highlanders. The program made its 16th trip to the football semifinals last week, but saw its record fall to 6-10 in those games. Still, the 2013 Highlanders reached a game not many around the state thought they could get to. They were a team that started slow at 2-2 with what appeared to be a devastating district loss to Del City in Week 4, and several injuries to key players: senior linebackers Javi Laboy (torn ACL), Madison Phillips (missed some games), junior defensive lineman Jackson Taito (torn ACL) and corner back Lorenzo West (missed games). Despite all that, the proud Highlanders were able to turn their season around and win eight straight games before falling to McAlester. Their final record was 10-3. "I don't think people realize that we were 2-2 and a really fragile team. We're not used to losing games and losing two out of four was not the start we wanted," MacArthur head coach Brett Manning said. "Our defensive leader (Laboy) blew his ACL. Another defensive starter blew his ACL. We weren't playing well offensively and had some other struggles. We were in a pretty bad place after Del City. The coaches did a great job of keeping the players going and the players did a great job of responding to that.
STILLWATER (AP) No. 6 Oklahoma State has come a long, long way from its head-scratcher loss to West Virginia. The preseason Big 12 favorites are one win from their second league championship in the last three years. A victory would enable the Cowboys to share the honors with the winner of the game between No. 9 Baylor and No. 23 Texas. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1) would be set for a top BCS game as well. That win, however, will need to come at home Saturday in the annual Bedlam rivalry game against No. 18 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12). "It doesn't get any bigger than this, especially for me being from Oklahoma," said senior defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, preparing for the last home game of his college career. "I grew up in Tulsa watching this game. As a team, we know this means a lot. Every week for us has been a big game, and it's all led up to the biggest game. It feels really good knowing that all the work we've put into it so far is coming out and that the chance is actually here." Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose younger brother Cale has served as Oklahoma's running backs coach since 1999, seems to be downplaying the identity of the opponent while concentrating on properly preparing his players for a talented adversary.