In Lawton, it doesn’t matter the schools or the sport: all city rivalry games have an extra spice added to them.
But Friday’s basketball games between MacArthur and Lawton High, especially the boys’ game, has just about all the storylines and hype you could want. Tonight, the two rivals meet at MacArthur’s gym, with the girls’ game starting at 6 p.m. and the boys’ game slated for 7:30 p.m.
First, there’s possibly the most common motivational tool in the book: that of revenge. The Wolverines took an 81-70 win over MacArthur on Jan. 21. There’s also the fact that guard Sep Reese, who scored more than 1,000 points as a three-year letterman and starter at Mac, transferred to Lawton High over the summer.
It’s also the final week before seedings are finalized for the playoff brackets. While the Mac boys, ranked 7th in the Class 5A rankings, are on pace to possibly sew up the No. 4 seed in the west, the Wolverines could lock up the top seed in the west bracket of Class 6A with a win.
“I don’t even remember Lawton being the number one team on the west side,” Lawton High boys coach Eric Wiley said. “So we have to win to keep the number one seed.”
The final storyline, as Wiley alluded to, is that these schools — and this game — have not been on this stage together in quite some time. After being in Eisenhower’s shadow for the better part of the 2010s, the boys basketball programs at MacArthur and Lawton High are enjoying the spotlight as Lawton’s top attractions.
And attractions is the proper term, as both teams can score in bunches. Although Lawton High has averaged just 63 points per game in its past five games, the Wolverines dropped 105 on Eisenhower a month ago and did put up 81 on MacArthur. Ashawnti Hunter, Marty Perry and Laquon Williams can all get hot in an instant, while defensive stalwarts like Jaylen Swift and Reese can turn steals into instant transition offense.
But Mac can score as well, with Danquez Dawsey, Brandon Cowan, Leontaye McClennon, Arzhonte Dallas, Earl Moseby and Montez Edwards each having at least one game of 20+ points under their belts. Mac coach Marco Gagliardi knows the game is a big one in terms of importance but also in terms of entertainment factor.
“Last game that counts for regional seedings so we gotta play hard, protect home court and be ready for a battle all 32 minutes,” Gagliardi said. “It should be a fun one.”
On the girls’ side, MacArthur just had its six-game win streak snapped by No. 3 Ardmore. Although they have seven losses on the resume, six of Mac’s seven losses are to teams who were ranked in the Top 10 of their respective classes at the time, including four to Top-5 teams. The Highlanders beat Lawton High 77-47 back in January, but the Wolverines were only trailing by four just a 1:30 before halftime. If Amanda Zagoske’s team is going to pull the upset, star guard Dalena Fisher will likely need to drive to the basket, forcing MacArthur into foul trouble. But she will also need teammates like Leilani Jackson and BB Johnson to contribute.
MacArthur, No. 8 in Class 5A, will look to take better care of the ball than in some recent games. If the Highlanders can do that, coach Otis Gentry has plenty of players, both seasoned and young, he can look to for offense, from seniors Erin Henry and LHS transfer Kamryn Simien to youngsters like sophomore Azariah Jackson and freshman Tajanah Mardenborough.