Lady Indians repeat at state, boys fall early
Sequoyah High School Superintendent Leroy Qualls gives the Oklahoma Class 3A championship trophy to the SHS Lady Indians on March 10 at the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. It’s the second-straight state championship and third in the past four years. STEPHANIE HAIR/PRICELESS POSES PHOTOGRAPHY
The Sequoyah Lady Indians basketball teams poses with Sequoyah High School staff and Cherokee Nation officials on March 10 at the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. SHS defeated Kingston, 53-51 for the Class 3A title. STEPHANIE HAIR/PRICELESS POSES PHOTOGRAPHY
Sequoyah Lady Indians junior Jonia Walker goes up for a shot in the first round of the Oklahoma Class 3A tournament against Kansas on March 8 at the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. SHS defeated Kansas, 59-48. STEPHANIE HAIR/PRICELESS POSES PHOTOGRAPHY
Sequoyah senior Bradyn Smith goes for layup in the first round of the Oklahoma Class 3A tournament against Hugo on March 8 at the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. SHS lost to Hugo, 39-36. STEPHANIE HAIR/PRICELESS POSES PHOTOGRAPHY
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Sequoyah High School girls basketball team defeated Kingston 53-51 to win the Class 3A girls state championship at the State Fair Arena. It’s the Lady Indians’ second-straight state title and third in the past four years.
After winning state in 2017, they started the 2017-18 campaign ranked No. 1, with pressure to reach state again. Head coach Larry Callison said he expected this year’s team to qualify for state.
“We had the nucleus of our team back,” he said. “We just felt like we had that chance to have a good year. As the year went on, it just seemed like it got better and better.”
For a team of mostly underclassmen, getting better as the season went along was not easy considering the schedule.
“We play a tough schedule. We do that on purpose,” Callison said. “We just think if you’ve got good kids, you need to play good people. I think it definitely helps us for when it gets to playoff time.”
The Lady Indians finish the season 27-3, losing to Class 6A Yukon, Class 4A No. 1 ranked and eventual state champion Fort Gibson and Class 3A rival Adair.
“I think those losses help us,” he said. “I’ve always said you don’t get better by playing teams that aren’t very good. It’s hard to get kids up to play when you know you’re going to beat people pretty bad.”
Sequoyah closed the season with 18 straight wins. The Lady Indians avenged two of the three losses they suffered in the season by defeating Fort Gibson on the road and Adair at home.
They cruised through the district and regional championships by beating Westville 72-35, Verdigris 52-24 and Holland Hall 41-34. SHS beat Beggs in the area final, 57-55.
Many people anticipated an Adair/Sequoyah state final, however Kingston spoiled it by defeating Adair the semifinals.
“Kingston was the real deal though. They were really good and they came in under the radar,” Callison said. “They weren’t expected to be where they were.”
SHS beat Kansas 59-48 and Comanche 50-36 to reach the final.
The Lady Indians expect to return to the state tournament next season as they retain their nucleus of Alexys Keys, 6-footer Jonia Walker and Aubrey Brown. However, Callison said the regular season would be tough as usual.
As for Sequoyah’s boys, the Indians returned to the state tournament for the sixth time in eight years. However, their title bid ended with a 39-36 loss to Hugo in the first round.
“We were the two best defensive teams in the tournament, and when they put us together, there was nothing easy,” head coach Jay Herrin said. “It was really tough game, and I mean very physical. They (the referees) let us play somewhat. It was just one of those games where people weren’t running free and people weren’t getting open shots. You really had to work hard to get a decent shot.”
The Indians tied the game at 36 with eight seconds left. The Buffalos inbounded the ball and G’Quavious Lennox dribbled up the court. With the Indians’ Bobby Cade guarding him, Lennox threw up a long 3-point shot. A foul was called, putting Lennox on the foul line for three shots. He made them all.
“When it first happened, I was like ‘man, they are just blowing it off and they’re not going to do anything and we’ll go into overtime,’” SHS senior Bradyn Smith said. “Then when that guy (referee) came running over pointing in the air signaling three free throws…I just couldn’t believe it.”
The Indians finished 24-5, one win more than the previous season.
“We were able to win all three of our tournaments this year. We won the Shrine Tournament…and then we won the Lincoln Christian tournament,” Herrin said. “Through the course of the year we lost three games in the regular season. We lost to Keys and Lincoln Christian and Fort Gibson, and we were able to beat all three of those teams in rematches.”
SHS cruised through the district and regional tournaments beating Westville 95-39, Verdigris 91-58 and Holland Hall, 61-48.
“In the area tournament, we met up with Star Spencer, and that is the team that put us out in the semifinals of state last year,” Herrin said. “They beat us in the area championship (64-49), so we had to turn around and play on Saturday (March 3), and we beat Beggs in a tough game. Beggs was a really good team, and that’s what put us in the state tournament.”
The Indians lose four starters and some size next season. Herrin said they would play an up-tempo game to make up for it and that making state would be challenging.
“Next year our team will be different. Our guards will be smaller…We lose a lot of strength, size and toughness,” he said. “Those guys are going to have some big shoes to fill, but they’re very good players. This summer will be very important for us to get together and play well and to kind of come together as a group. Hopefully, we’ll be a well-oiled machine next year when the time comes to make the playoffs to make a run and try to get back to the state tournament again.”