The Edmond Sun
In a rugged Class 5A state tournament opening game with hits and bodies crashing to the hardwood without a whistle, the Deer Creek Antlers muscled their way to a 30-24 cushion after three quarters Thursday afternoon inside the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University.
Deer Creek power player Conner Avants cleared out some space and scored from close range with just under two minutes left in regulation to put the Antlers up 41-38.
El Reno evened things up with 53 ticks to play and Deer Creek was playing for the last shot. Avants was hit near midcourt and the ball came loose. After a hard scramble, somehow the ball that ended up out of bounds was awarded to the Indians who ran off over 42 seconds before Bryon Elledge banked in a runner up the middle of the lane with just 00.8 showing on the clock for a 43-41 triumph thus ending Deer Creek’s season at 17-10.
“It was a heartbreaker,” Antler skipper Matt Bailey stated. “There was a lot of grabbing. Maybe we didn’t adjust enough with our turnovers.”
Elledge took full advantage throughout the contest and really turned it on offensively in the final quarter where he tallied eight of his 10 points.
Deer Creek attempted the Christian Laettner play of 1992 with 00.8 left, but Caleb Eldridge’s pass was off the mark to Avants near the top of the circle and the horn sounded. El Reno (22-6) fell 80-49 to Tulsa Memorial this morning in the semis.
The Antlers led 19-14 when Avants went left with a power move to the glass with 2:07 left before intermission and led 21-18 at the break after Eldridge snatched back-to-back rebounds and then scored with just three seconds left.
Deer Creek got up 26-20 with 3:29 to play in the third on an Elyjah Clark drive to the hoop. Clark scored eight points for the Antlers which was led by Avant’s 18 ensued by Tyler Haddock (6), Eldridge (6) and Josh Stokesberry (3).
“I’m proud of the team and what they’ve accomplished,” Bailey lauded. “We were 9-15 last year and to almost win a state tournament game the next year is a great, great accomplishment.”
Bailey cited team chemistry as the reason for the turnaround of the contrasting seasons.
“All these guys come together as a family,” he said. “They all really get along even off the court.”