ENID, Okla. —
Darin Jones was savoring Pond Creek-Hunter’s boys’ first trip to the state tournament since 1986 Sunday.
The Panthers, who lost in the area losers bracket finals the past two years, beat Skeltur Conference rival Drummond 25-22 in the Class A Area III losers bracket finals at Glenpool Saturday on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Trenton Grimes.
Pond Creek-Hunter (19-4) will face No. 4 seed Hollis (19-3) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Yukon High School. Hollis beat Cyril 60-27 in its area finals Friday.
“The last two years we have knocked on the door,’’ Jones said. “This year we have been fortunate enough to open the door and get in the state tournament.’’
Jones was a junior at Medford High School when a Van Shea Iven-led Panthers team last made state 28 years ago.
“I told our boys it was time for the Pond Creek-Hunter boys to reach state,’’ Jones said.
Grimes’ dramatic shot capped a defensive-minded comeback for the Panthers in the chess-match- like final. Zach Rayner had two key steals in the final two minutes for the Panthers to overcome a 22-20 disadvantage.
“I don’t know if John Gresham could have written it any better,’’ Jones said. “Zach Rayner had a couple of key steals and Trent Grimes had enough moxie to take the final shot. We were fortunate it went in. I told (Drummond coach) Curtis Foster after the game he coached an outstanding game.’’
The Pond Creek-Hunter/Hollis winner will face the Fort Cobb-Broxton/Kiowa winner at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the State Fair Arena.
Other first-round games pit Weleetka and Laverne at 3:30 p.m. and Velma-Alma and Glencoe at 2.
Pond Creek-Hunter’s girls will be making a return trip to state Thursday when they face No. 2 seed Caddo (23-1) at 3:30 p.m. at the State Fair Arena.
The Lady Panthers (25-1) are eyeing some redemption after a 51-41 loss to Cheyenne-Reydon a year ago when leading scorer Jade Jones was hobbled with a knee injury.
“The girls wanted to get back because we felt like we didn’t have the opportunity to show how good we were because of the injuries,’’ said Pond Creek-Hunter coach Tasha Diesselhorst. “We’re looking forward to playing better this year.’’
The girls were motivated, too, to get to play at the State Fair Arena after playing at Southern Nazarene last year.
“We knew all year Class A girls would be playing at the Arena so that’s been one of our goals,’’ Diesselhorst said. “This is going to be an experience we’ll never forget. I’m happy as a group we’ll get to experience it.’’
Maybe even more memorable since Jade Jones will be joined at state by her dad’s Panther boys team.
“That’s a true blessing,’’ said coach Jones said. “I’m counting my blessings. There’s nothing better than seeing your daughter’s team get in and then your own team get in.’’
Caddo beat Kiowa 51-35 in its area finals. Pond Creek-Hunter’s girls eliminated Coyle 58-48 in the Area II losers bracket finals Saturday.
The Pond Creek-Hunter/Caddo winner will face the Sterling/Cheyenne-Reydon winner at 9 a.m. Friday at the Arena. Other first-round games pit Frontier and Arkoma at 8:30 p.m. and Seiling and Turner at 7 p.m.
“Class A is wide open,’’ Diesselhorst said. “It wouldn’t surprise me no matter who is playing in the finals.’’
One safe bet is there’s going to be a lot of Pond Creek-Hunter finals in the city area Thursday.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.