The Duncan Banner
On the second day of the Stephens County Tournament, the boys teams took the court for the first time. Marlow, Central High, Velma-Alma and Empire took to the court to determine Thursday’s semifinal matchups.
The host, No. 2 Velma-Alma Comets, held nothing back in a dominating 64-36 win against No. 7 Empire.
Making quick work of the outsized Bulldogs, the home team went up 12-4 in the first quarter. Senior Jaz Gayanich nailed three three-pointers and had 12 points in just the first half. Eight Comets contributed on offense to reach the 32-15 halftime lead. It was exactly the business-like win coach Kenny Bare had been hoping for.
“Day one of the tournament, you want to be sure you get to the winners side,” Bare said. “We came out ready to play, and I’m proud of the way our guys played.”
Gayanich finished with 22 points. The six-foot six-inch forward couldn’t be stopped offensively, and he made some key blocks on defense. His intensity was up all night as the senior said he wanted the Comets to keep improving.
“We needed to step up our game and, as the team leader, I needed to step up my game as well,” Gayanich said.
Size was a reoccurring theme throughout the night. Bare ran plays exploiting Empire’s frontcourt. One of them was a lob to senior Connor Sullivan near the basket, which the team ran efficiently. The forward would bring down the pass and either put in the layup or pass it off for an easy bucket.
Empire did have moments to show its improvement on the offensive end since the beginning of the season. Most of the highlights came from junior Evan Whitt, who led the Bulldogs with 17 points.
The No. 4 Marlow Outlaws didn’t have any trouble in their 100-71 victory against No. 5 Frederick.
Junior Zac Beasler hit five three-point shots in the first half to put the Outlaws on the straight and narrow with a 51-31 lead. The shots just kept falling for the team wearing blue, and even when they bounced out occasionally, senior Trey Coffman cleaned up inside.
“He rebounds hard and plays hard under the basket,” Beasler said. “He really helps our team out in that part of the game.”
Coffman finished with 27 points to be Marlow’s leading scorer, though three other players — Beasler, Senior Wes Coast and sophomore Braeden O’Dell — scored in the double digits. The Outlaws stayed consistent on the offensive even when the subs came into the game. Eleven Marlow players got on the score sheet.
“To have that many people on the bench contributing, that means our future is good too,” Coffman said.
The Bombers’ best ammunition was its outside shooting. They dropped eight deep bombs to keep the score closer than the game felt, but the biggest three-pointer belonged to Marlow’s Johnathan Shufeldt. With less than a minute to play, Shufeldt brought the crowd to its feet by stroking in a corner three to get the score into triple digits. It was a moment that meant a lot to Coffman.
“It was awesome we scored 100. I don’t remember the last time Marlow’s done that or if they have ever done that before,” Coffman said.
The last time Marlow pushed the scoreboard to triple-digits was before Coffman was even born. Coach Kirk Harris confirmed it was against Comanche’s junior varsity in 1991.
No. 3 Central High kept the northern Stephens County teams rolling with a 56-51 victory against No. 6 Ryan.
It looked like it was going to be a battle early, but the Bronchos won the second quarter 20-6 to solidify a 40-19 halftime rout. Ryan hung around 15 to 18-point deficit range for most of the night, but made a surge in the fourth quarter, which they won 21-9. Still, they couldn’t overcome that vital period of play, which had got them so far behind. Coach John Nease said the early domination was because of a culmination of improvements the team has tried to make.
The biggest difference between the two halves was Central High’s leading scorers. Seniors John Repp and Kevin Harris combined for 28 points in the first half but were held to just two points apiece in the second half.
“We just tried not to force the ball,” Harris said. “We did what our coach told us to do. We just tried to move the ball and if we had a wide open layup, we could take it.”