A 13-game winning streak. Two wins against Class 5A No. 1-ranked Goddard-Eisenhower. A ranking in the top 10 of the state polls. A raucous, packed crowd in The Dawg Pound that rivals those of the state-power wrestling team.
The Arkansas City High School boys basketball team is far from finished.
The Bulldogs captured their first sub-state title in 17 years Saturday night, overcoming an 11-point deficit to run past Coffeyville 61-50 in the Class 4A D-I Sub-state championship game.
“I can’t describe my emotions right now. Tears of happiness — everything,” said Hunter O’Toole, one of nine seniors on the team. “I love my brothers, I love my family — this is an awesome feeling right now. I can’t describe it.”
The Bulldogs (17-5) will take the No. 4 seed into the State tourney and open play at 8:15 p.m. Thursday against fifth-seeded Wamego (16-5). The Red Raiders opened the season with nine consecutive wins, but finished fourth in the North Central Kansas League.
“We’re ready to go in and play whoever. We have to play the toughest team in the state. We want a shot at them,” ACHS coach CJ Jennings said. “Our guys are excited about this. They’re playing well right now and they want to play the best.”
To Ark City fans, the final minute of Saturday’s game must have seemed like eternity. And it was lengthy — the Golden Tornado (12-10) was forced to foul and send Ark City to the foul line for 1-and-1s, but had just two fouls to that point.
Only then could the ACHS faithful pour onto the court to celebrate.
“It’s a great feeling. We have a great community behind us,” senior Nathan Spencer said. “The girls game packed the gym before us. It’s a great feeling to get a ‘2018’ up on the wall.”
That crowd was nearly stunned into silence in the early stages of the game. That’s because the Golden Tornado rained 3-pointers at an alarming rate, hitting their first eight, including 7 of 7 in the first quarter. Many came from NBA range.
Coffeyville spotted Ark City a pair of Jordan Wilson free throws, then the rains came.
Brandon Graham and Trevaughn Myrie sank back-to-back treys, one from each quarter. Cevin Clark answered with an old-fashioned three-point play, but Myrie and Cedric Kelley tossed in consecutive treys.
Kelley was 3 of 3, while Myrie and Graham were 2 of 2 from beyond the arc in the period as the Tornado built a surprising 26-15 lead.
Spencer gave the Ark City fans hope by banging in a 3-pointer from near midcourt at the first-quarter buzzer.
Clark drained a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter, and when Jaylen Logan’s trey from the top of the key banged off the backboard with 4:24 left in the half, it marked the first time Coffeyville missed a 3-pointer.
The Tornado began flirting with foul trouble at that point. Wilson took a charge to send Logan to the bench with his third foul at the 2:28 mark of the half, and 37 seconds later, Kelley was whistled for his third foul on an illegal screen.
O’Toole responded by banging in a 3-pointer of his own to cut the deficit to three, 34-31. Myrie sank a pull-up jumper at the buzzer, but the 36-31 halftime deficit was a bit more manageable.
“Their kids shot the ball really well. We didn’t expect that,” Jennings said. “We had film on them, and in those films (Kelley) hit a couple of shots, but not like that. So we had to turn around and face-guard him late. O’Toole did an amazing job on him. That’s what O’Toole does really well for us. When he just has one job, and it’s to shut a guy down, he does a great job at it.”
It was a 15-2 third-quarter run, including 11 consecutive points, that turned the tide for Ark City.
Wilson and Cooper Pierce sparked the run with back-to-back layups. Clark drove to the hole, and O’Toole’s pull-up jumper made it a one-point game, 40-39, with 4:12 left in the third quarter. O’Toole then gave the Bulldogs their first lead since 2-0 with a one-handed baseline runner at the 2:34 mark of the period. Wilson took in a feed from Clark for a layup, and Pierce stripped the ball at midcourt and sent a laser to junior AJ Wilson for a layup to cap the run with 24 seconds left in the quarter.
“When we switched up our game plan at halftime,” Jennings said. “We started being more aggressive and rebounding the ball a little better. The guys turned it around and that’s when we went on our run.”
Kelley buried his final trey of the game to start the fourth quarter, but there was no stopping the Bulldogs, who reeled off the next eight points.
The rest was just a matter of time.
“They couldn’t box out, they couldn’t find me. I just kept moving and the ball found me,” said Jordan Wilson, who finished with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double. “We’ve worked really hard to get here. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a fun season. It’s been worth all the work. We stay in after practice for like an hour, just getting work in, and it’s paying off.”
Clark led all scorers with 19 points and four assists in 31 minutes of playing time — he sat for all of one minute.
“We played him pretty long in the last two games, but Cevin’s a tough kid. … You trust him late in the game with the ball in his hands,” Jennings said.
O’Toole added 13 points, giving Ark City three players in double figures. Spencer chipped in eight points, while senior Hunter Stewart added six rebounds.
“Since we were freshmen, we’ve getting after it. We’re trying to change this program around. It’s a good start,” O’Toole said.
Added Spencer, “We had Coach Jennings our freshman year. We started from the ground up. We started doing the little things right, and it paid off today.”
Class 4A D-I Sub-state
Saturday at Arkansas City High School
Arkansas City 61, Coffeyville 50
Cedric Kelley 5-11 0-0 15, Trevaughn Myrie 4-14 1-2 11, Andrew Knight 4-6 1-1 9, Brandon Graham 3-5 0-0 8, Jaylen Logan 2-6 1-2 7, Jemil Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Tariq Logan 0-2 0-0 0, Antoney Turner II 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-45 3-5 50.
ARKANSAS CITY (17-5)
Cevin Clark 6-19 6-8 19, Jordan Wilson 5-7 5-6 15, Hunter O’Toole 5-8 2-3 13, Nathan Spencer 3-3 0-0 8, Cooper Pierce 2-8 0-0 4, AJ Wilson 1-3 0-0 2, Hunter Stewart 0-1 0-0 0, Paul Fioernetino 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-49 13-17 61.
3-Point goals: Coffeyville 11-22 (Kelley 5-6, Graham 2-3, Logan 2-5, Myrie 208); Ark City 4-15 (Spencer 2-2, O’Toole 1-4, Clark 1-5, A. Wilson 0-1, Stewart 0-1, Pierce 0-2). Rebounds: Coffeyville 24 (Graham 5, Knight 5); Ark City 33 (J. Wilson 10). Assists: Coffeyville 12 (Logan 4); Ark City 9 (Clark 4). Steals: Coffeyville 2 (Myrie 1, Martin 1); Ark City 6 (6 with 1). Blocks: Coffeyville 0; Ark City 2 (Pierce 1, A. Wilson 1). Turnovers: Coffeyville 9, Ark City 4. Fouled out: None. Total fouls: Coffeyville 19, Ark City 10.