ENID, Okla. — After a 129-109 win over Shreveport on Friday night, the Enid Outlaws came into Saturday’s game three of the Central Conference Finals with one mission, survive and advance to The Basketball League’s semifinals.
Shreveport denied Enid that chance, 112-104, before the home crowd at the Stride Bank Center.
“They just made some tough shots,” Outlaws coach Mark Dannhoff said. “I thought our guys did a great job fighting back until the end. They gave themselves a chance at the end and that’s all you can ask for.”
Enid fell behind early and never led in the contest, trailing the Mavericks 68-29 at halftime.
Shreveport expanded the lead to as many as 21 points in the first half, leading 66-45 late.
There was no quit in the Outlaws as they mounted a big fourth quarter comeback, slashing the lead to as little as three points with mere minutes left in the series.
Enid made runs at the Mavericks and the crowd came to life, but little mistakes broke Enid’s momentum.
“Guys were pressing and trying to make big plays,” Dannhoff said. “We had some opportunities, but things just didn’t bounce our way. That’s the way basketball is, sometimes it ends up in your hands, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Leader, fan favorite and MVP candidate Chuck Guy scored 13 points with 10 rebounds for another playoff double-double while playing all but three seconds off the game. Guy was perfect from the free throw line on six attempts.
“He is the heart and soul of this team,” Dannhoff said. “These eight guys that finished the season gave everything they had.”
There were fans chanting “MVP” and even a sign saying “Chuck Guy for MVP” after Guy was named to the TBL All-Central Conference First Team.
“I just wanted to win,” Guy said. “I give it my all out there, but we came up short, that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Even though the Outlaws aren’t going to be crowned TBL champs, Guy said he has made lasting memories.
“The ones who stuck it out will be with me for the rest of my life,” he said.
Ricardo Artis II also played all but three seconds and was a force all season for the Outlaws. Artis scored 24 points and had 16 rebounds in the loss.
“I’m at a loss for words right now, we have been fighting hard since training camp,” he said. “We have been through the fire, swam through the water, been in tornadoes all season and I still tried to stay positive. I’m just at a loss for words.”
Artis made all but one of his 15 free throws, the most on the team. He echoed the work ethic that Guy spoke about.
“I gave it all I had since I came here,” he said. “I’m emotional right now. I just want to stay positive.”
Artis also echoed Guy’s sentiment about the bond the eight remaining players will share going forward toward an uncertain future.
“I love these guys,” he said while fighting back tears. “We just tried to battle and I have so much love for these guys, the staff, the fans and everyone here. I just hope it’s not the last time I’m here. I don’t know what the future holds.”