OKLAHOMA CITY — No. 1 Kingfisher (28-1) won its second Class 4A state championship in three seasons after defeating No. 2 Heritage Hall (26-1), 59-39 at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
The Yellowjackets waited a year to return to the state championship game. Last season, Kingfisher’s only loss came from Heritage Hall in the state championship game.
“Walking off the court last year … it was miserable,” senior Jett Sternberger said. “I don’t wish that upon anybody.”
Senior Trey Green said the anticipation to make it back to the state championship game built over the last year.
“In our gym workouts you always (saw) us focused,” he said. “But in the back of our mind, that’s all we’re thinking about.
But it was Heritage Hall that came into Saturday night’s game with a perfect record, setting the stage for Kingfisher’s revenge game.
“It’s an amazing way to send our seniors out,” Kingfisher head basketball coach Jared Reece said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
After defeating John Marshall by 43 points in the semifinal game, Heritage Hall’s offense was stunned in the first quarter Saturday night. The Chargers were held scoreless on their first eight possessions, committing turnovers on half of them. Heritage Hall didn’t score it first points until Trey Alexander hit a field goal with 2:27 left in the quarter. Sternberger went on a six-point run himself before the Yellowjackets finished the first quarter with a 10-4 lead.
“I think we guarded as good as you can guard Heritage Hall,” he said.
Reece said his players bought into playing unselfish defense which contributed to their stout defense throughout the postseason. The Yellowjackets held opponents to under 40 points in five straight games.
Reece said in last year’s championship game, Kingfisher switched to a zone defense, which was “abnormal” for the Yellowjackets. This year, Kingfisher chose not to change anything on defense. Reece and the Yellowjackets were willing to win or lose with the half-court man.
“It worked out perfectly,” Reece said.
Kingfisher led by as many as 16 points in the first half. The Yellowjackets rode a four-point run into the second quarter and made it a 12-point run before Heritage Hall could respond with a single free throw. Kingfisher went into halftime with a 24-11 lead.
Heritage Hall’s offense didn’t post double-digit scoring until the fourth quarter with 19 points. The Chargers saw points from eight different scorers. Alexander led the offense with three points, all of which came at the free throw line when he took a foul from behind the three-point line. His trio of points cut the lead to nine, which was Kingfisher’s smallest lead since the end of the first quarter.
But Kingfisher brought the lead back to double-digits with three-consecutive scoring possessions, which included back-to-back three-point shots from Sternberger and sophomore Matt Stone. With less than four minutes to play, Kingfisher built its lead to 17 points.
Sternberger finished the game with a team-high 19 points. Sophomore Bijan Cortes and Green finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Alexander and Will McDonald led Heritage Hall with 12 points each.
As time dripped away in the fourth quarter, the Kingfisher crowd grew louder and louder. Starters were subbed out toward the end of the game and met with a roar of applause.
“Kingfisher is the best all-time community, best support,” Sternberger said.
The support is present regardless if the Yellowjackets are at the state tournament.
“Look at the stands tonight,” Sternberger said, pointing to fans seated nearly to the arena’s ceiling. “It’s unreal. You just can’t ask for a better community.”
The anticipation for the state championship game was built on more than just a 2018 state title loss. Reece said Heritage Hall is a Kingfisher rival in several sports. Saturday night’s game wasn’t solely an opportunity to win another state championship.
It was also another opportunity to beat Heritage Hall.
“They weren’t going to miss that,” Reece said of Kingfisher fans.
Sternberger, Green and three other seniors finished their careers as state champions while Kingfisher reloads for next season. Three of Kingfisher’s seven scorers were sophomores.
“These younger guys, they know it's not over for them,” Green said. “They still got next year and they need to get into the gym and prepare, starting Monday.”