By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The two best players on the two highest-ranked teams in the Skeltur Conference Tournament made a stage of the Enid Event Center in Thursday’s semifinal round, but it was Drummond’s Brady Kokojan that stole the show.
Kokojan scored 24 of his 28 points after halftime, and the Class A No. 7 Bulldogs outlasted No. 10 Pond Creek-Hunter 49-48, advancing to the Skeltur finals and spoiling a 24-point, 10-rebound outing for Panther senior Zach Rayner.
“Two great players going at it,” said PC-Hunter coach Darin Jones. “They both played well in the second half. We did a good job against Brady in the first half, but he stepped up in the second half. Great players do that, and he’s a great player.”
Rayner’s night kept Pond Creek-Hunter within striking distance, and freshman Kade Tracy led a late scramble in the final three minutes, hitting three of four threes — nine of the Panthers’ final 10 points — to pull the Panthers from eight down to within one with nine seconds left. But after Tracy’s last trey, Drummond evaded PC-Hunter’s attempts to foul until 3.2 seconds remained, when Scott Rodenberg was hit under the Panthers’ basket. Rodenberg missed both, but with no timeouts left, Rayner could only pass the rebound up to half court, where Josh Irvin’s 42-footer sailed wide right.
PC-Hunter opened the game down 9-2 and trailed by as much as 12 in the third quarter. The Panthers took their only lead of the game at 18-17 with 2:55 left in the second, but after that didn’t score for more than seven minutes, opening the door for a 12-0 run that spanned the second and early third frames.
Rayner’s 10 third-quarter points, capped by a three with six seconds left in the frame, helped the Panthers pull to within 36-33 entering the fourth.
“They have a lot of resolve, and a lot of grit and determination,” Jones said. “It seemed like we’d get it to three, and they’d get it back up. But it was those boys (PC-Hunter) and their resolve and competitiveness to not be beaten.”
Kokojan’s takeover that started in the third carried over into the fourth, the senior scoring 12 in the frame and hitting five of six free throws down the stretch to keep PC-Hunter from retaking the lead.
“I mess with Brady that the cream rises to the top,” said Drummond coach Curtis Foster. “So at the end of the ballgame, you’ve got to rise up and get into the position of wanting those pressure shots, or we don’t get (deep) into the playoffs. He stepped up.”
The Panthers still had two opportunities to draw even, the second ending in Irvin’s errant halfcourt heave. The first came with just under 2 minutes remaining, when Kokojan made a rare fourth-quarter mistake, stepping on the halfcourt line while trying to avoid a trap and incurring a backcourt violation.
Irvin, who finished with four points and a game-high nine assists, drove to basket, but was blocked by two Drummond defenders. The rebound fell first to PC-Hunter’s Jevan Overton but was swatted away and Drummond’s Parker Jankey covered the loose ball and called a timeout.
“It was a hard-fought ballgame,” Kokojan said. “They played a heck of a ballgame. We’ve got to play a lot harder.”
PC-Hunter missed six of 11 attempts from the free-throw line, hitting only one of six first-half attempts, an early struggle that would hurt the most late.
“You wish you could have those back, but you can’t complain,” said Rayner, who was three-of-four on free throws, and 9-14 from the field. “You have to go out there and play.”
Wit the win, Drummond advances to the Skeltur Tournament boys championship 6:40 p.m. Saturday against 2013 runner-up and top-seed Pioneer, which beat Cimarron 62-43 on Thursday. PC-Hunter play Cimarron at 4 p.m. Saturday for third place.
PC-Hunter and Drummond will play each other again Jan. 31 in Drummond.