By Glen Brockenbush
ANADARKO — Lawton MacArthur and Anadarko gave fans a double dose of extra basketball on Friday night as the schools went head-to-head in both the boys’ and girls’ semifinals of the MidFirst Warrior Classic in Anadarko.
The Anadarko and MacArthur girls played defensive in the first half before MacArthur coed Janiya Fisher scored 16 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer in the dying seconds to force overtime where the Lady Highlanders held onto the 54-50 win.
At the nightcap, the MacArthur boys had a superb performance from freshman Brennan Malone, who scored all of his 11 team-best second-half points as the Highlanders fended off a strong Warriors team 52-48 in overtime.
MacArthur’s opponents in both finals on Saturday will be El Reno.
The El Reno girls team advanced to the championship game with a 52-42 win over Chickasha. On the boys’ side, El Reno led by a basket after a quarter against Cache, but the Indians held the Bulldogs to just five points in the second quarter before Evan RomanNose exploded in the second half with 18 points and El Reno the 64-48 win.
Lawton MacArthur 54, Anadarko 50, OT (Girls Semifinals)
The game started with lots of ball movement but not much offense, with the Lady Warriors consistently blocking passing lanes and forcing turnovers and contested shots from the Lady Highlanders. And while Anadarko also struggled to shoot from the field in the first half, they were spurred on by their free-throw shooting.
The Lady Warriors caught 8 of 10 fouls in the first two quarters of the game while Mac made zero as Otis Gentry’s side went 22-16 at the break.
But that luck turned against the Lady Warriors in the second half as they missed 5 of their 8 free throws in the third quarter alone. That quarter, Janiya Fisher, a newcomer from Louisiana, took the MacArthur team on her back for stretches and scored nine points in that frame.
Recap: Day one of Anadarko’s Midfirst Warrior Classic
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lady Highlanders were just a point behind and smelling blood. They played confidently, made shots and took a three-point lead with five minutes left.
One of the reasons for the success was the intensity of the defense, which Gentry is very proud of.
“In that fourth quarter we increased our defensive pressure and I think that (Anadarko) has eased off,” Gentry said.
Still, the hosts wouldn’t walk away. Senior Chloe Cantrell hit her third 3-pointer of the night with 2:50 left to improve Anadarko by two.
With MacArthur within striking distance in the last minute, neither team could scoop free throws that would either help Anadarko win or breathe new life into MacArthur. Cantrell eventually hit two free throws to make it 48-45, but Fisher drove down the court and hit a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
In the extra session, Anadarko struggled to find good shots. Meanwhile, Alayna Vines had two baskets that contributed to the win.
Vines scored 8 of her 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtime while her senior colleague Tajanah Mardenborough had 11 points and went 5-on-5 from the free throw line.
Vines and Mardenborough have been key players in Mac basketball since their freshman days, making important contributions to two state tournament runs and bringing a wealth of experience and leadership to a young roster. Vines’ development, particularly over the past four years, has impressed Gentry as basketball isn’t even their best sport.
“She’s a volleyball player; It’s her number one sport, but if you watch her play basketball, you don’t realize it,” Gentry said. “And T (Mardenborough), excellent job as a point guard, got us into our sets and ended up taking those free throws.”
But the star of the day was Fisher, who finished with 21 points. She may only be a sophomore, but Gentry sees big things ahead for her.
“She’s going to be great,” Gentry said. “She can be one of the best guards in the state. She has that mentality.”
Lawton MacArthur 52, Anadarko 48, OT (Boys Semifinals)
The MacArthur boys were considered likely underdogs against Anadarko, but two first-half 3-pointers from Alton Thomas gave the Highlanders a 22-17 half-time advantage.
And while the Highlanders fired 11 shots from beyond the arc in the first half (a 36 percent shot rate), it had less to do with the game plan designed and more to do with exploiting in-game situations.
“We made some moves early on that looked really good to us,” said MacArthur coach Marco Gagliardi. “And then they started guarding those actions a little bit better, so it kind of took that away.”
In contrast, the Warriors rarely attempted 3-pointers in the game, relying on penetrating shots from Breylon Owens and Rayden Churchill, who often made contact, and MacArthur’s big men, 6-foot-4 Anthony Smith and 6-5 Brennan Malone, early on Game brought rotten trouble.
Churchill made 11 of 12 free throws on the night while Owens made 3 of 4.
Anadarko didn’t even make a 3-pointer until late in the fourth quarter when Tiger Tompkins hit a corner triple to give Anadarko a 44-41 advantage. But Malone responded with a 3-pointer with 1:18 left that sent the game into overtime.
In overtime, Anthony Smith continued his excellent second half, making a key basket and two crucial free throws. He finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
For Anadarko, Churchill had a game-high 19 points.
El Reno 52, Chickasha 42 (Girls Semifinals)
Emmary Elizondo had 14 points and Reagan Bugaj had 11 to lead El Reno back to the championship game of the tournament they won a year ago in a season that saw the Lady Indians eventually finish runners-up in the 5A. Serenity Goughty had 10 points for the Chicks.
El Reno 64, Cache 48 (Semifinal Boys)
Evan RomanNose took all 18 points after halftime while teammate Matthew Tofpi had 16 points. For coach Zach Ange’s Bulldogs, Tyrik Love had a game high with 20 points while Tyler Harbin contributed seven.