OKLAHOMA CITY —
Latta may have eliminated the Chouteau Wildcats from the state playoffs Friday, but not before Upset Nation struck again.
Chouteau senior Jason Couch hit a go-ahead jumper with 14 seconds left and the Wildcats escaped with a 53-52 win over previously unbeaten Ketchum in a 2A state quarterfinal Thursday at Oklahoma City University.
“We battled all through the fourth quarter and my teammates just put me in position to make that last shot,” Couch said. “I actually didn’t hear [Chouteau head coach Travis Wheeler] call a play. I thought he said to go with it.
“I took it up, stepped back and shot it, and it went in.”
Ketchum stood at 26-0 and No. 2 in the state before meeting the Wildcats. Ketchum defeated No. 1 OKC Northeast 52-51 in an area winners’ bracket to punch its ticket to state.
Chouteau promptly beat both teams in one week to earn a spot in a state semifinal.
“Coming to state is amazing as it is,” Wheeler said. “Every one of these kids is from Chouteau. I’ve had them since they were little kids, and to see them have that kind of success just makes it that much better.
“They’re all heart, and they just make things happen.”
The Wildcats recovered a defensive rebound off of a Jeylyn Sharpe miss following Couch’s go-ahead shot. Couch brought the ball up the floor and was fouled with 2.3 seconds on the clock.
Couch missed the front end of the 1-and-1, but Tanner Mouse’s half-court heave at the buzzer fell short.
“It was a great defensive effort from Travis Brannon and Isaac [Carter] on that last play,” Couch said. Brannon and Carter contested Sharpe’s six-footer, forcing Sharpe to miss badly.
The 6-foot-5 Sharpe torched the Wildcats for 17 points in the first half, including all six of the Warriors’ second-quarter points.
“We did a lot better job digging down on [Sharpe] in the second half,” Wheeler said. “We rotated well and made him pass it out, and both of our post guys were moving over to double team him and our outside guards took away the backside post. It made other people have to make some shots.”
The Wildcats fell behind 17-8 after one quarter and fought back from down 11 points (30-19) in the third quarter. After a Chouteau timeout, the Wildcats caught fire, ending the third on a 17-4 spurt.
Sophomore Arlis Alsip nailed back-to-back treys to give Chouteau its first lead (33-32) since the opening moments with 1:40 to go in the third.
Neither team enjoyed a lead of more than five points the rest of the way.
The teams traded baskets down the stretch, with Ketchum retaking the lead 42-41 on a Mouse trey with 4:40 left. Chouteau answered, but Sharpe tied the contest at 46 with an and-1 at the 2:47 mark.
The Warriors went on a 4-0 mini-run to give itself a 50-46 cushion before Alsip sunk two free throws at the 1:40 mark.
Tristan Pendley hit a jumper for the Warriors to push the lead to 52-48 with just over a minute left.
That’s when Upset Nation took over. Senior Jordon Shive knocked down a trey – his first of the game – with 1:05 left to cut the lead to 52-51. Couch’s jumper made it 53-52 in Chouteau’s favor.
“I was just going as hard as
I could for as long as I could,” Couch said. “If it was my last game, I was going out with nothing left.”
Couch finished with six points and five rebounds. Shive finished with a team-high 19 on 7-of-13 shooting. Shive also went 4-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Fellow Wildcats Carter and Alsip finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Carter was 6-of-7 from the field, while Alsip went 2-of-4 from deep range.
As a team, the Wildcats were 21-46 from the field (46 percent) and held the Warriors to 21-for-51 (41 percent).
Sharpe was the game’s high scorer with 26 points. Sharpe also snagged 12 boards.
Mouse added 16 points. Pendley pitched in 10, but went just 2-of-6 from the line in the final period.
The Wildcats played the part of Cinderella to a T against Ketchum, but just like the famous character, Chouteau made an early exit from the big dance.
In Friday’s semifinal, Latta opened a huge lead on the Wildcats and held Chouteau off down the stretch, nabbing a 65-41 win and a berth in Saturday’s state final, eliminating the Wildcats in the process.
Chouteau trailed by as many as 20 in the third quarter before rallying back to close the gap to 48-41 with six minutes to play.
The Panthers held the Wildcats scoreless for the rest of the game, ending the contest on a 17-0 run.
Latta was on fire from the outside in the opening half, hitting 4-of-8 from 3-point range. Brady Johnson, who finished with 16 points, led the charge with a trio of treys.
The score stood at 48-35 heading into the final eight minutes. A pair of old-fashioned 3-point plays by Shive and Carter gave the Wildcats their smallest deficit since the first quarter.
Chouteau went cold from the field and was forced to foul and Latta took advantage, going 8-of-12 from the line in the final period.
Panther Jake Collins led all scorers with 25 points. Couch led Chouteau with 18, but went 0-for-3 from the field in the fourth quarter.
Shive scored 11 points in his final game in a Wildcat jersey. Couch, Brannon and Travis Bedure – all starters – also finished up their Chouteau careers. All four checked out of the game with 1:38 to go, receiving an ovation from an appreciative Wildcat crowd.
“I told them to go out and give it everything they’ve got,” Wheeler said. “Leave nothing on the court. We came up short tonight, but
I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.
“I don’t know if there’s anything this group couldn’t do.”
The Wildcats finished the season at 20-10.
Chouteau Scorers – Shive 19, Carter 12, Alsip 10, Brannon 6, Couch 6.
Ketchum Scorers – Sharpe 26, Mouse 16, Pendley 12.
Chouteau Scorers – Couch 18, Shive 11, Brannon 5, Carter 5, Bendure 2.
Latta Scorers -- Collins 25, Johnson 16, Hays 8, Storts 7, Tully 5, Contril 3.